May 24, 2024
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Binghamton battery project named one of 10 NSF Innovation Engines in the nation

Upstate New York coalition wins $15 million for first two years, up to $160 million over 10 years

M. Stanley Whittingham, Nobel Laureate and distinguished professor of chemistry, shows his framed patent for the lithion-ion battery while greeting U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines announcement on Jan. 29 at Binghamton University. M. Stanley Whittingham, Nobel Laureate and distinguished professor of chemistry, shows his framed patent for the lithion-ion battery while greeting U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines announcement on Jan. 29 at Binghamton University.
M. Stanley Whittingham, Nobel Laureate and distinguished professor of chemistry, shows his framed patent for the lithion-ion battery while greeting U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during a U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines announcement on Jan. 29 at Binghamton University. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

Binghamton University’s role as a national leader in battery innovation and manufacturing received a multimillion-dollar investment Monday when the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) designated Upstate New York as one of 10 inaugural NSF Regional Innovation Engines.

The initiative led by Binghamton University and its New Energy New York (NENY) coalition of partners — NSF Engines: Upstate New York Energy Storage Engine — will get $15 million for the first two years of the project and up to $160 million over 10 years. The grant was announced by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during a visit to Binghamton University’s Innovative Technologies Complex.

“Today, the federal government and the top scientific minds in America are saying: If you want America to get ahead in battery technology, Binghamton is the best in the class,” Schumer said. “This award helps make the message clear: We want the future of American batteries developed in Binghamton, not Beijing.”

“With this transformative National Science Foundation grant, we are putting Binghamton and all of New York state back at the cutting edge of manufacturing and innovation,” Gov. Kathy Hochul added. “The modern era of battery technology was born right here in New York, and thanks to Majority Leader Schumer, President Biden and New York’s congressional delegation, the CHIPS and Science Act is helping to ensure that the future of batteries is built here as well.”

Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger, who attended the announcement with NENY/Engine leaders M. Stanley Whittingham, Per Stromhaug, Olga Petrova and Stacey Johnson, thanked Schumer for his support of Binghamton and NENY.

“Another extraordinary win for Binghamton University’s New Energy New York and the entire coalition,” Stenger said of the grant. “We have all of the right academic and research collaborators on board, we are partnered with major industries as well as small businesses, and our ecosystem is diverse. This is what the NSF Engines program is all about.”

The NSF Engines award builds on a strong foundation established by NENY, which earned the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) award in September 2022 and the designation as a federal Battery Tech Hub in October 2023. Binghamton is the only U.S. university to receive all three designations. In less than two years, NENY has supported more than 30 high-tech startups and developed a host of programs to support the growth of the battery and energy storage manufacturing industry which have introduced or trained more than 650 people.

Binghamton University will continue collaborating with its core upstate coalition partners (Rochester Institute for Technology, Cornell University, Syracuse University, New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium, Launch NY and Charge CCCV) to implement the NSF Engines initiative that expands NENY’s regional ecosystem to include research and development, technology transfer and further workforce development across 27 counties.

Whittingham, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2019 for his work in developing the lithium-ion battery in the 1970s, and serves as the chief innovation officer for the project, stressed that the award is vital for battery research and development while bringing a secure supply chain to the United States.

“Engines give us the [funding] to meet and work with our academic and industrial colleagues throughout the state,” he said. “This is a huge day. We are going to march forward.”

Launched in May 2022, the NSF Engines program harnesses the nation’s science and technology research, development enterprise and regional-level resources. NSF Engines, authorized by the Schumer-led CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, represents one of the largest investments in place-based research and economic development in the nation’s history, as science and technology leadership serves as the central driver for regional economic competitiveness and job creation. NSF chose 16 Engines finalists from a pool of nearly 200 proposals before naming the 10 winning projects.

Stromhaug, Upstate New York Energy Storage Engine chief executive officer and Binghamton University associate vice president for innovation and economic development, credited his coalition partners in attendance for making the NSF’s three-day “finalist” site visit a success.

“A lot of you were here — probably 40 people showed up — to tell NSF that we need this innovation in the battery space and that it can happen because of everything we have in New York state, because of Stan Whittingham, Harvey Stenger, the University and our team of partner universities and companies.”

NSF kicked off its Engines selection announcements Friday with two sites in North Carolina. Other Engines are based in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, North Dakota, Colorado/Wyoming and the Great Lakes region. NSF’s initial $150 million investment into the 10 regions will be matched by nearly two-to-one commitments from state and local governments, other federal agencies, philanthropy and private industry. While each NSF Engine can receive up to $160 million over 10 years, actual amounts will be subject to a given Engine’s status and overall progress, as assessed annually.

Petrova, NENY director of innovation and Binghamton University’s director of the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships, emphasized the risk, resources and teamwork of the NSF Engines program.

“It’s taking a risk on us while providing the resources for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “At the end of the day, transformation innovation requires collaboration. All of our stakeholders and partners come together to work as a single engine and elevate upstate New York.”

Schumer, who showed off a signed lithium battery from Whittingham during the announcement, credited Stenger’s vision and leadership, the strength of the NENY coalition, “the genius” of Whittingham, and himself for making upstate a priority as Senate majority leader.

“This is Binghamton University’s biggest win so far,” Schumer said. “But the award has been years in the making. It’s been a long chess game with strategically placed pieces to help the Southern Tier get a once-in-a-generation opportunity to jolt a transformative economic revival in a region that requires federal investment.

“Science is our key. There are so many great universities and leaders right here [in upstate New York]. We are investing in science, but not just pure research. We are investing to make sure the research translates into jobs and factories.

“This is the start of a new chapter — a future with new opportunities for our children and grandchildren to stay in upstate New York and thrive,” Schumer added. “We’ve captured lightning in a bottle.”

Watch a highlights video from the NSF Engines announcement