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Five Mass. Companies Get Contracts for Small Business Innovation Research

Release Date: 03/26/2009
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – March 26, 2009) – Five small businesses in eastern Massachusetts have received a total of $1.125 million from EPA to commercialize innovative technologies that address pressing environmental problems. These Bay State companies were among only eight companies nationwide awarded a total of $1.8 million.

Massachusetts companies that were awarded the contracts for $225,000 each were: Johansson Industries of Beverly; Reactive Innovations of Littleton; EIC Laboratories of Norwood, Agiltron of Woburn and Aerodyne Research of Billerica. These research and development companies will address issues ranging from air pollution to water security.

"These contracts will help develop cost-efficient technologies to address serious pollution problems," said Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Cities and towns throughout New England and the nation are trying to address environmental problems like water and air pollution in cost effective ways. We are optimistic that these contracts will pay dividends by helping to accomplish these goals.”

This Phase II funding from EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research program is given to companies so they can prepare for commercial application technology developed in earlier Phase I contracts.

Johansson Industries
is developing a technology to remove more fine particles from coal-fired power plant emissions than traditional current methods. The company’s new, higher performing electrostatic precipitator is expected to double the precipitator’s efficiency and reduce particulate emissions, while costing the company less.

“We are a small business and without this grant could not have pursued the development of this innovative technology,” said Jeff Alexander, president of Johansson Industries. “If successful, the technology will be ready for commercialization in two to three years and will contribute significantly to improving the cleanliness of energy generation from coal.”

Reactive Innovations
is developing a water chlorination unit that can be used to produce clean drinking water in developing countries. Existing systems in Puerto Rico, where the unit is being tested, serve anywhere from 25 to 500 people and use surface and ground water sources that are not adequately chlorinated. The electrochemical reactor technology being developed will provide a relatively low-cost automated way to chlorinate water in these small systems.

“This contract will greatly help Reactive Innovations further develop our technologies towards disinfecting drinking water,” said Michael Kimble, president of Reactive Innovations. “This funding will help us bring this product to market faster.”

EIC Laboratories
is developing a hand-held instrument to detect harmful contaminants in water supplies. These water analyzers will be able to immediately detect and identify unusual contamination from chemicals, such as chemical warfare agents, that might result from terrorist activities. Although developed for Homeland Security uses, the instruments can also be used by industries and agriculture to monitor and prevent introduction of low levels of toxic industrial chemicals and pesticides into the water supply.

"This is a terrific opportunity for EIC Laboratories to develop a technology that will both benefit national security as well as address a sizable commercial market opportunity," said David Rauh, EIC president.

Aerodyne Research
is working on an affordable portable sensor that can rapidly detect ammonia. This compact instrument, which will have application for monitoring other toxics, will be used to monitor air pollution and air toxics, and will help companies comply with regulations. It will also be used for breath analysis in medical diagnostics and in combustion exhaust research.

Agiltron
is developing an inexpensive hand-held instrument to quickly detect leaks of volatile organic compounds, methane, and other greenhouse gases. This unit will cost users far less than existing detectors. Many businesses, including natural gas maintenance, supermarkets, and automotive and HVAC repair shops, will be able afford the unit.

"To combat global warming and support ‘green’ industry, Agiltron is developing an inexpensive infrared gas leak visualization camera to quickly and conveniently locate leaks of methane and other greenhouse and volatile organic compounds gases," said Dr. Jing Zhao, CEO of Agiltron. "The final product will be smaller, lighter, and much less expensive than any competing system, about $2,000 to $3,000 end user cost compared to $70,000 to $100,000 for currently available solutions."

EPA’ Small Business Innovation Research program is designed to strengthen the role of small businesses in federally funded research and development and to help develop a stronger national base for technical innovation.

In Phase I, the scientific merit and technical feasibility of the proposed concept is investigated. EPA awards these contracts for up to $70,000. Phase II contracts go to small businesses already funded under Phase I so they can investigate the commercial feasibility of advanced technologies.

Through this phased approach, EPA can determine whether the research idea, often on high-risk advanced concepts, is technically feasible, whether the firm can do high-quality research, and whether sufficient progress has been made to justify a larger Phase II effort. The objective of Phase II is to develop and commercialize the Phase I technology.

More information:

- Companies with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to apply for SBIR funds. The
EPA call for new applications will be open from March 19 – May 20, 2009 (see: epa.gov/ncer/sbir). The National Science Foundation (NSF) also has an SBIR program which funds new environmental technologies. NSF will be requesting applications from March – June 2009, and then again in December 2009 (see: nsf.gov/eng/iip/sbir).

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