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Batteries of the future? Look to Logan

(Salt Lake Tribune, by Mike Gorrell) – The state is stepping up a second time to help make Electric Power Systems’ move into Utah a success.

In May, EP Systems received an incentive of up to $1.67 million from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development board to manufacture batteries in Cache Valley. The project is projected to create 125 new jobs over the next seven years and trigger an $11.6 million capital investment by the company.

Now USTAR, the state agency that promotes technology-based economic development, has provided the company and Utah State University with a $664,015 grant — an amount EP Systems is required to match — to develop and accelerate the commercialization of high-performance, low-cost energy-storage systems.

Developing these lithium-ion batteries is important to the state’s aerospace industry, said Ivy Estabrooke, USTAR’s executive director.

“This is a great example of the type of industry-university collaboration we hoped to see when the IPP was launched,” she said, referring to the Industry Partnership Program. “EP Systems will strengthen Utah’s innovation ecosystem through its partnership with USU.”

Estabrooke said IPP’s goal is to identify “technology gaps within a company that can be solved by researchers at Utah institutions of higher learning.” USTAR is a “matchmaker” between individual companies and universities.

Its grant money may be used on materials and operational costs incurred by USU, including the salaries of university researchers, added USTAR spokeswoman Linda Cabrales.

The IPP contract establishes milestones the company must meet to receive grant installments. “Funds are disbursed after each milestone has been achieved,” she added.

Nathan Millecam, co-founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based EP Systems, called the IPP a “unique incentive” he is confident will lead to the creation of “a world-class battery-test lab.”

Boosting its prospects, he added, is the fact “Cache County offers a good supply of engineering and manufacturing talent from USU and other applied technology institutions.”

Kirk Jensen, Logan City’s economic development director, was ecstatic that “a new industry is coming in,” leasing 2 acres from the Logan-Cache Airport Authority Board to develop its facility near the city’s airport.

While the airport already receives considerable use by recreational pilots, handles freight service and is home to USU’s aviation program, he said EP Systems “will create a presence at the airport that will be dynamic and maybe start some momentum for bigger and better things.”

EP Systems’ high-paying engineering jobs certainly are desirable, Jensen said, but he was equally pleased by the partnership between USU and the company.

The university’s college of engineering and its innovative programs, he noted, are doing research that “dovetails very nicely with what EP Systems is working on. So there’s been great synergy on scientific aspects of this project.”

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

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