COnovate: Power pioneers hit new milestones

By Anna Lardinois

Startup Storyteller

In 2010, professors Dr. Marija Gajdardziska-Josifovska and Dr. Carol Hirschmugl identified the first known form of solid carbon monoxide at room temperature while working in the lab on the UW Milwaukee campus.

From their countless hours of experimentation, they developed COphite. The composite, when used in lithium-ion batteries, results in faster charge times, greater battery capacity and improves battery safety. Unlike the graphite battery manufacturers use today, this carbon alternative is higher performing and domestically sourced.

The pair formed their company, COnovate, in 2016 to take their discovery from the academic lab to the marketplace. With guidance from the Milwaukee I-Corps program, the company is making gains in the energy storage field.

The scientists are betting COphite will make it possible to charge electric cars in minutes, rather than hours, dramatically increasing the usability of the emerging technology. If they are right, COphite- and the company behind it, will disrupt the lithium-ion battery market, and solve supply chain problems with their Milwaukee made carbon-derived substance.

MKEStartup.News first featured COnovate in October 2021, and continues to follow the growth of this innovative, on the rise Milwaukee startup.

In a February update on COnovate, founder Dr. Hirschmugl calculated that the company has scaled 1,000 times in the last year.

The startup is garnering notice from a variety of sectors. In November, 2021 COnovate pitched their company to a room full of investors at WI Technology Council’s Early Stage Symposium. In December, the company flew to the West Coast to pitch their Milwaukee startup at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference Startup Innovation Showcase to investors interested in advanced battery materials.

COnovate was also at the NAATBatt International Annual Meeting earlier this month. The organization, formed in 2007, is an advocacy group for advanced battery technology in North America. One of the groups stated goals is making the U.S. a leader in the production of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles. The COnovate team was eager to share with the industry how COphite can dramatically extend the life of a lithium-ion battery between charges, and also solve supply chain issues, as the product is made in Milwaukee.

The company’s work in pitching their business is reaping rewards. COnovate recently received additional funding, which will help fuel growth. Since our last update, the company was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture focused on the use of low cost, sustainable bio-feedstocks in their process to make COphite material. In the last few months, COnovate has also raised capital from a group of private investors.

The additional funding allows the company to relocate to new facilities. As planned, COnovate continues to scale the amount of COphite produced; and the greater yields require more equipment. The company has outgrown their current location and is scouting the Milwaukee metropolitan area for its next headquarters. The team is looking for a place they can grow into and will allow them to manufacture and store the amount of COphite that is needed for large scale battery production.

To watch the growth of COnovate, connect with them here.

Leave a Reply