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Article | Communications and Public Affairs

CRI Supports Next Generation of Science Innovators and Entrepreneurs

Industry Impact

American innovation fuels industry and is a powerful resource for solving some of the world’s greatest challenges. So, moving innovation from concept to market as quickly and efficiently as possible is vital to the nation’s economic prosperity. Argonne’s Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) responds to this need by supporting the next generation of clean energy and science innovators in their journey to bring their innovations to market while enabling them to create new businesses that will grow the regional, state, and national economy.

In his role as CRI Director, John Carlisle understands the unique challenges these entrepreneurs face. In 2003, Carlisle co-founded Advanced Diamond Technologies, a Romeoville, Illinois, based company focused on developing and applying diamond films for electronic, mechanical, industrial, and biomedical applications. He knows from experience the barriers that can stunt the growth or execution of any idea. Energy and science firms can encounter significant hurdles including access to research equipment, mentorship, and capital. CRI innovators receive the financial and technical support needed to perform early-stage research that leads to the development of transformative innovations,” said Carlisle.

CRI innovators represent the best and brightest from across the country. Each year, a cohort of five to six teams or individuals are admitted through a highly selective process and participate in a two-year program. They receive fellowship funding that covers salary, benefits, use of laboratory equipment, and office space. Through a partnership with mentor organizations, they also get assistance developing business strategies, conducting market research, and finding long-term financing and potential commercial partners.

Since the first cohort joined CRI in 2017, 26 startups have raised $89 million in funding and created 215 jobs. One such business is ClearFlame Engine Technologies. Co-founders Julie Blumreiter and BJ Johnson, alumni of cohort 1, entered the program with technology that converts diesel engines to run on cleaner fuels to increase performance and lower emissions. Working with Argonne researchers in the Advanced Powertrain Research Center, we were able to advance the technology through additional engineering and data collection. This led to securing over $5 million in federal and equity funding for additional research and development,” said Blumreiter. Today, their technology is being used by some of America’s manufacturing leaders, including Navistar and Caterpillar. BJ and I had high expectations as we entered the program, and during those two years, every expectation was met,” said Blumreiter.

This summer, these CRI alumni innovators are opening a manufacturing site in Geneva, Illinois, and over the next decade, they project ClearFlame to grow by 1,500 jobs. In addition, further deployment of their technology will help Illinois meet its carbon mitigation goals by providing a 40+% reduction in carbon emissions from industry sectors that are hardest to decarbonize.

Chain Reaction Innovations will begin accepting applications for Cohort 6 (2022-2024). If you are interested, learn more and submit an application. Applications period opens on September 21, 2021, and will close at 5 p.m., October 31, 2021.