BERC and Cyclotron Road shining bright at ARPA-E Summit


BERC was represented in great numbers at this year’s ARPA-E Summit Student Program. Over 10 current BERC members were in attendance from a wide range of departments including materials science and engineering (Alex Luce, Sibel Leblebici, Matt Lucas), chemical engineering (Danny Hellebusch), mechanical engineering (Tim Sennott, Miguel Aznar), public policy (Rachel Gold), and energy & resources (Monica Testa). There were thousands of people in attendance at the Summit, with equal parts academia & research, government, and private sector in the room providing for lots of rich networking and learning opportunities for BERC’s members. Speaker highlights included Solar City CEO Lyndon Rive, Former Secretary of Treasury Hank Paulsen, Outgoing ARPA-E Director Cheryl Martin, and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, among others. Two Berkeley-based startups received top prizes at Monday night’s pitch competition.

I also had the opportunity to participate in the Student Energy Technology Showcase Challenge. The Technology Showcase at ARPA-E is a way for all of ARPA-E’s funded projects to display their research and technologies. The projects are from all of ARPA-E program areas from natural gas storage to flow batteries to wide band gap semiconductors to novel¬†tracking methods for solar PV arrays. Students who flew in for the conference from across the U.S. had an opportunity to learn about these technologies and then pitch on behalf of a specific researcher or company receiving ARPA-E funding in a quick and dirty, tech to market style presentation. I met with my team members from Oregon State, University of Illinois, and Johns Hopkins and we ended up presenting on behalf of Avogy, which is developing vertical gallium nitride transistors and diodes to help make power electronics (in laptop charger, data centers, electric vehicles, and beyond) more efficient and reliable as silicon-based transistors are meeting their material limits. The company is really impressive, having received a $40m investment round in fall 2014, and having already spun out a consumer product called the Zolt laptop charger, which can charge multiple devices at the same time.


Lastly, LBNL’s new outfit Cyclotron Road had the booth closest to the technology showcase entrance, and were receiving lots of attention for their exciting new direction in the world of technology¬†incubation. Directed by Ilan Gur and former BERC co-president Sebastien Lounis, the program already has an impressive group of companies under their wind, including Mosaic Materials, Visolis, CalWave, and Obtainium. If you want more information on Cyclotron Road, you should check out their recent profile in the New York Times here!

cyclotron rd