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Cadenza Innovation powering up with unique battery tech

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Joshua Liposky, associate director of battery systems (left) and Jay Shi, vice president of research and development at Cadenza Innovation, use a moisture-free glove box while working with battery materials in the company’s state-of-the-art R&D labs in Bethel.

Cadenza Innovation is, if you’ll pardon the expression, surging.

The Wilton-based startup, which provides energy storage solutions for license to lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery manufacturers, was selected in June from hundreds of international candidates as one of the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Technology Pioneers — the second time since 2010 that the same founding team has earned that award.

Also last month, the firm was awarded funding for a demonstration project to further New York state’s clean energy goals and support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s energy storage target of 1500 megawatts in New York State by 2025.

That project, expected to be completed by fall 2019, will consist of a stand-alone system that includes a rack-mounted 200kWh, 50kW battery storage unit featuring Cadenza’s Li-ion supercell technology, which company founder and CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud said is a unique design delivering high energy and improved safety at low cost.

“What we’ve been doing is in response to people who say, ‘You can’t do that,’” Lampe-Onnerud told the Business Journal. “Our response is, ‘Yes, but if we could, wouldn’t that be kind of cool?”

What Cadenza — which in addition to its Wilton headquarters maintains a development lab inside Duracell’s research facility in Bethel — is doing is developing a battery technology platform for license to global manufacturers. Initially targeting the electric vehicle and utility/grid storage markets, the company’s patented supercell serves as the cornerstone of what it calls its novel architecture as well as providing a simplified battery pack design. That in turn substantially reduces production and manufacturing costs, overcomes safety issues and improves energy density, according to the company.

In 2004, Lampe-Onnerud, a native of Sweden, founded and served as CEO and chairman of Boston-Power, another firm looking to provide improved batteries. After it failed to get a $100 million grant it had applied for as part of the U.S. Recovery Act, and the Chinese government provided a package of $125 million in venture capital, low interest loans and grants, that firm shifted its interests to overseas.

But it did so without its founder. 

“The company is now entirely run by Chinese management, which is very appropriate,” she said. “And the opportunity to get to know the culture and speak the language there was wonderful.

“But I’m the parent of two kids,” she added, “and such a move didn’t seem appropriate. Fortunately, I was given a chance to work at Bridgewater Associates.”

Christina Lampe-Onnerud addresses some of her troops at Cadenza Innovation in Wilton.

Lampe-Onnerud worked at that Westport firm for nearly two years, during which time she said the siren song of developing a superior battery platform continued to resonate. Along with former Boston-Power executive Per Onnerud (both her husband and chief technology officer), she started Cadenza in 2012. Today it has 28 employees and 70 consultants in what she calls the company’s “ecosystem.”

Cadenza’s founding team members have more than 125 patents, while the company itself and is backed by more than $10 million in Series A investment led by Golden Seeds; it’s also earned funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. As for Lampe-Onnerud herself, among her other recognitions are an MIT Technology Review Young Innovator award and being named to the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Hall of Fame.

Lampe-Onnerud will participate in the World Economic Forum Annual “Meeting of the New Champions,” also known as “Summer Davos,” in Tianjin, China from Sept. 18-20. 

While the irony of returning to that country isn’t lost on her, she noted that China remains the world’s largest battery-maker in the world. According to Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, China will have 62 percent of the world’s lithium-ion battery production capacity by 2020.

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