TAEBC member Renewable Algal Energy (RAE) was featured in a two-part series on Teknovation.biz for its successful use of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to scale its business model.
RAE’s CEO, Jeff Kanel, has been very focused and purposeful in using the SBIR program to strategically advance the company.
Kanel describes his keys for success in submitting and winning the awards: utilization of solid project management tools, inclusion of well-defined milestones and deliverables, and a clear understanding of the critical success factors.
RAE has created what is describes as “novel breakthrough technology to produce a sustainable, economically viable product from micro algae.” Those offerings range from algal oil as a feedstock for renewable diesel fuel to protein, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids for animal and human nutrition.
“Our model is to be a technology licensor,” said Kanel. “We are trying to make algae a profitable endeavor that also solves a lot of global problems.”
Three of the four SBIRs that Kanel submitted were directly related to evolving RAE’s technology. The fourth, also focused on algae, was submitted by Kanel before RAE was founded.
Over a roughly six-year period, RAE has successfully won Phase I, II and III awards that have proven the viability of the technology, helped fund work to validate the financial model and scalability of the technology, and deploy a semi-works facility.
Today, RAE has strategic relationships, customers, and a technology proving ground in Arizona as well as a North-American developer with a site that is permitted for the deployment of RAE Technology.
“By going through the SBIR Phase I, we matched-up a proof on concept (that showed) what we were doing had a chance of success,” Kanel said. The proposal was submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 2007. The award and work were conducted in 2008.
Phase II, again funded by DOE, ran from 2009 to 2012, with RAE collecting considerable amounts of data to show financial viability and technology scalability.
“We were moving the proof of concept to commercialization,” Kanel says in describing that period.
Phase III, which ran from 2012 into 2014, was an accelerator period when RAE deployed the technology in a semi-works scale effort designed to reduce the technology risk. This final phase helped RAE to secure contracts with interested partners.
Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series on the Teknovation.biz website to learn more about why and how SBIRs had a solid impact on RAE’s development.