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One of the presentations to attendees at Siemens Technology to Businesses 2011 New Ventures Forum this past June was by Amber Kinetics, a startup that is developing a kinetic energy storage system that integrates intermittent, renewable wind and photovoltaic solar energy into the electrical grid. Amber Kinetics is also a Siemens Technology to Business partner, and an excellent example of the benefits that a startup can yield from working with a large corporate partner.
“Energy storage has been a hot topic for several years,” said Dr. Ayman Fawaz, Director of Venture Technology at Siemens Technology to Business. “But the biggest challenge to energy storage technologies is identifying the business case that justifies its deployment.” The past several years have seen analysts specifying price targets that would make the technology viable and this has been guiding companies working in the space. More recently, there have been significant developments in the area of grid regulation, where grid operators attempt to match supply and demand in real time.
Today these operators must still call on energy generators as frequently as every fifteen minutes to either deliver or absorb more power. The generators have a hard time reacting so quickly, and when they do respond their efficiency drops, resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions. These grid or frequency regulators, as they are called, see energy storage as a viable technology for solving this problem.
“I first met Ayman in 2009, when we were both presenting at a conference hosted by a mutual colleague,” said Edward Chiao, founder and CEO of Amber Kinetics. The two stayed in touch, and about a year later Ayman gave Edward a call to talk about Siemens’ interest in the Amber Kinetics technology, and how they might frame up a partnership that would benefit both companies. “I saw immediate benefits in terms of gaining instant credibility, and adding go-to-market capabilities like Siemens’ global sales and marketing reach.”
“We decided to partner with Amber Kinetics because they appear to satisfy the requirements for a new solution for fast regulation,“ said Ayman. “Their solution also reduces costs, which made them even more attractive in terms of a business case. Add to that their very strong team—an important criteria for us—and a grant they’ve received from the U.S. Department of Energy which calls for them to find an industrial partner, and it was clear that Siemens was a perfect fit.”
Siemens and Amber Kinetics are currently in the first phase of their partnership, with Siemens closely monitoring Amber Kinetics’ progress, performing due diligence, and learning the subtleties behind the development of the technology and the market. Siemens is also first in line to be Amber Kinetics’ industrial partner, pending achievement of certain milestones by the end of 2011.
Today, Ayman and the Siemens Technology to Business team are socializing the Amber Kinetics technology and concept within Siemens, serving as its champion, looking for synergies for the technology with Siemens’ products, and identifying sponsors within the Siemens business units with the goal of Siemens becoming Amber Kinetics’ demonstration partner for actual field trials.
Ayman invited Amber Kinetics to present at the 2011 New Ventures Forum because they are great example of how Siemens Technology to Business works in partnership with startups. “The benefits of partnering with Siemens have been huge for Amber Kinetics,” Edward told the attendees. “We’ve already met with several of Siemens’ business unit leaders— doors we could never open on our own. The partnership has also opened doors with new potential partners, validating our efforts because Siemens has looked at our technology, they’ve looked at the market, and they’ve chosen to work with us. We also feel very fortunate to be working with Ayman,” concluded Edward. “His background is in startups, he knows what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur, and he knows how to get things done.”