Department of Energy announces $121mn in funding for innovative SMEs
This week, United States Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced that the Department of Energy is planning to award 113 funding grants to 103 small businesses across 29 states. The total funding provided equals US$121mn and will help the companies affected to progress with the next phases of research and development.
The grants are being funded through the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.
According to the Department of Energy’s press release, the funds were allotted according to the records of small businesses that demonstrated technical feasibility for innovations during their Phase I grant. Those businesses then competed for funding for prototype or processes development during Phase II. The median Phase II award is $1,050,000 distributed over a period of two years.
Three companies received the maximum amount of funding (just over $1,549,000): Minus 100 LLC, Touchstone Research Laboratory and Sonalysts Inc.
Minus 100, LLC
A family-owned and operated business, Minus 100 was founded in North East Pennsylvania in 2003. The company produces carbon-based conductive pigments, micron-sized powders and nano-sized suspensions to be used for the production of a variety of conductive inks, paints, and pastes from proprietary carbon-based feedstocks.
Kevin C. Kerns, President & CEO said: “Minus 100, L.L.C. is dedicated to provide a quality product that satisfies our customers’ needs and expectations the first time, and every time.”
Touchstone Research Laboratory
From ideation to materials development to product development, Touchstone specializes in fast development of innovative goods and services. In addition to R&D services, the company offers failure analysis and testing in a state-of-the-art facility.
An employee-owned professional services business founded in 1973 and headquartered in Connecticut, Sonalysts Inc has spent over 40 years working for the public and private sectors. The firm is one of the few in the country that integrates the advanced technology capabilities of a defense research, development and engineering company with the creative talent of a full-service video, film, recording, graphics design, sound design, and set construction/exhibitory business.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.