FuzeHub, a nonprofit organization that assists small- and mid-sized New York state manufacturers with competitiveness issues, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive a $150,000 award to help close the gap between American innovators who develop new energy technologies and domestic manufacturers who produce them. And very soon, a portion of the funds will be put to use in Western New York, assisting the region’s growing clean-tech sector—renewable and efficiency energy technologies that support a global clean energy economy—through educational workshops and resources for entrepreneurs.
FuzeHub applied for the DOE’s American Inventions Made Onshore grant in April 2018, said Kim Lloyd, FuzeHub’s director of special projects.
“We have always been engaged in helping manufacturers across New York state with their scale-up challenges within the energy industry, but we wanted to increase our efforts” Lloyd explained. “When we heard about the AIM Onshore opportunity, we were excited to pursue it. The process included competing with proposals from organizations all across the country. Knowing that they were only going to select four awardees, we knew that required putting our best foot forward."
Apparently, their best effort did not go unnoticed.
“We received notification that we won at the end of May, and we were invited to the announcement at the MForesight National Summit in Washington, D.C., on the afternoon of June 13,” Lloyd continued. “The National Summit explored answers to big questions for American manufacturing by thought leaders and politicians in support of advancing manufacturing initiatives. Daniel Simmons, who leads the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, announced all four winners, including FuzeHub.”
While still early in the planning process, FuzeHub will be partnering with clean-tech incubators who will help them identify candidates for Build4Scale training, which helps innovators connect with manufacturers. Training also helps innovators avoid common pitfalls of product design by teaching them manufacturing design fundamentals in the early stages of prototype development, and provides them with the know-how they need to work with manufacturers.
As part of the New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a network of organizations that provides growth and innovation services to small- and mid-sized manufacturers in every corner of the state, FuzeHub’s efforts will extend beyond training.
“We need to make sure the training leads to manufacturing scale up, and the MEP centers are key to that effort,” Lloyd added. “In Western New York, these partners would include MEP InSyte Consulting and Launch NY to help with the necessary business and funding guidance the clean-tech sector companies would need to be successful. The Western New York Innovation Hot Spot/WNY Incubator Network, managed by the University at Buffalo, is a collaborative of multiple incubators (including the Directed Energy Virtual Incubator) and receives support from the state economic development agency. They will also engage its client innovators in support of our Build4Scale training.”
So, in a nutshell, what does this actually mean for the Western New York business community?
“Western New York is home to a lot of industrial manufacturing in a transition state” said Lloyd. “This landscape has changed drastically over the past couple of decades. Recently, there have been a few prominent renewable energy initiatives, including $1 million in investment in UB's Renewable Energy Future. The combination of these two trends makes Western New York ripe terrain for our efforts. Our goal is to be part of the clean energy solutions growth in Western New York and beyond, by helping promising clean-tech innovations get from the drawing board to the marketplace. As we help the clean-tech ventures grow, so too, will they help bring about business for existing Western New York manufacturers.”