CHARLESTON, W.VA. — State officials and executives from area chemical companies and industry organizations gathered at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston to commemorate the launch of the nation’s first business incubator focused solely on chemical-based technologies.
Dubbed “ChemCeption,” the new incubator is designed to serve as an innovation hub for any technology involving chemistry.
Organized by the Chemical Alliance Zone, in conjunction with TechConnect West Virginia, the incubator will focus on developing and commercializing a wide range of chemistry-related ideas, raging from green technologies, water, plastics, biotechnology, energy and other industries.
“We’re really capitalizing with this incubator on the strengths of this place,” said ChemCeption director Kevin DiGregorio, referring to the Tech Park.
He said the Tech Park’s pilot plant and large-scale lab facilities are ideal for helping startup companies test new concepts and technologies on a commercial scale.
Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette said the region’s growing natural gas industry, along with the planned cracker plant in Wood County, have primed the local chemical industry for further growth. Much of that, he said, would come from startup companies that could take advantage of the new incubator.
“The blood that rushes through the veins of West Virginia’s economy is small business,” Burdette said.
With the planned Odebrecht cracker near Parkersburg, Burdette said he’s trying to focus on developing and attracting companies that can build off of the raw materials that the plant and others like it produce.
At an afternoon event at the Tech Park, organizers introduced four startup companies that will either be housed in or affiliated with the incubator.
One of those companies, Liberty Hydro, focuses on removing metals and other toxic materials from runoff and water discharges at mines and power plants.
John Taylor, chief technology officer at the company, said the incubator will help his company raise money, build relationships with existing companies and also help recruit potential new employees.
Jon Pauley, founder of polymer startup Polyplexx LLC, said the incubator will allow leaders at small companies to collaborate to solve problems and work through common issues they face in their day-to-day operations.
“It’s about a team concept,” Pauley said. “It’s the ability to work with the same people who face the same problems.”
Alexander Oliferenko, president of EigenChem, said the Tech Park is an ideal location for a chemical-focused incubator.
“I’m very much proud and happy that I’m here,” Oliferenko said. “As a chemist, I love this place because this is a city of big chemistry.”
Oliferenko’s company, which is headquartered in Gainesville, Fla., will be an affiliate member of the incubator. While his company is based at a biotechnology incubator in Florida, Oliferenko said the Charleston incubator offers resources he can’t find in Florida.
“This is a much better match,” Oliferenko said. “I feel this is another level for me.”
Greg Babe, former CEO at Bayer Corp. and current CEO of Liquid X Printed Metal, said companies are going to be able to enjoy a bounty from development in Marcellus shale natural gas formation over the coming decades. He said fostering startups and helping innovative companies grow can ensure that the state enjoys the full benefits and sees the maximum job growth from this development.
“ChemCeption is our launchpad for the next generation of game-changing technology,” Babe said.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.