Two LaunchPad + Syracuse CoE ventures share in $200,000 in awards at the NYS Innovation Summit

man holding a trophy
Chris Thomas, founder of Envision Biopolymers, holds his FuzeHub trophy

Farm to Flame Energy Inc., co-founded by Syracuse University alum Will McKnight and Kwaku Jyamfi, won the $150,000 grand prize and Envision Biopolymers, founded by SUNY ESF post graduate Christopher Thomas, won $50,000 in the FuzeHub 2022 Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund Commercialization Competition.

The competition was held October 25-26 at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center as part of the NYS Innovation Summit. Nine entrepreneurs from across New York State pitched their ideas before a live audience and a panel of four expert judges from the economic development community.

The annual two-day Innovation Summit was held in Buffalo, NY, and included keynote speakers, an executive roundtable, exhibits, breakout sessions on economic development trends and disruptive technologies, and tours of local Centers of Excellence and a new Incubator. Over 500 people and 100 exhibitors were in attendance. During the Commercialization Competition, which is the 4th Track in the Summit breakout sessions, twelve companies demonstrated the commercialization potential of their product or technology while competing against each other for the opportunity to win an award that will lead them closer to market.

“We are very excited to add these companies to our awardee portfolio. Many previous awardees have achieved significant, sustainable growth, and some have even received national recognition,” said Elena Garuc, Executive Director of FuzeHub, “We believe that this year’s winners are in a position to do just as well, if not better, and we are proud to support them in their journey.”

Josh Aviv ’15 G’17, founder of SparkCharge, was a previous FuzeHub winner, also working with the Syracuse LaunchPad and the Syracuse Center of Excellence (Syracuse CoE). He is now scaling the company nationally.

Both Farm to Flame and Envision Biopolymers worked with the Blackstone LaunchPad and the Syracuse CoE to develop and incubate their ideas.

Farm to Flame Energy Inc. (Syracuse)

Farm to Flame Energy repurposed a Steam Turbine to generate electricity through a smokeless-odorless and portable biomass electricity generation process. They use pulverized feed stocks as biomass to achieve a thermal efficiency of 98%, against the traditional biomass thermal efficiency of 78%.

The venture was founded in 2018 by Will McKnight and Kwaku Jyamfi to commercialize a unique combustion process that was patented by Will’s grandfather and uncle. This process allows several agricultural wastes to burn in a smokeless and odorless fashion. Stefano Alva, Kwaku’s colleague from Carnegie Mellon University, came on the team as CFO in 2020. Through funding from Carnegie Mellon University, Syracuse University, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, FTF commercialized their proprietary biomass electricity generators and home heating products. It also recently won a competitive $100,000 EPA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant and a CSIT Award of nearly $750,000 through its clean tech seed grant program.

The company previously won very early-stage innovation funding through competitive programs through the LaunchPad and the Syracuse CoE.

Envision Biopolymers LLC (Syracuse)

Envision will provide a waste-to-bioplastic platform technology for chemical suppliers to the pulp and paper-based food packaging industry. This not only answers their customers’ demands for more sustainable packaging solutions, but also an impending critical need to replace soon-to-be outlawed workhouse chemistries (PFAS) that they have been using.

FuzeHub 2022 winners

The Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund, consisting of over $1 million annually, supports a set of activities designed to spur technology development and commercialization across New York State. FuzeHub is administering this fund as part of its role as the Empire State Development designated statewide MEP center. For more information, visit Jeff Lawrence Innovation Fund.

About Jeff Lawrence:  During his more than 20 years at the Center for Economic Growth, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) affiliate in the Capital Region where he served as executive vice president, and MEP Center Director, Jeff Lawrence directed programs of direct assistance to manufacturers and technology companies to increase their competitiveness. He is remembered for being an invaluable and generous mentor to many in the area’s business community and a tireless advocate for manufacturing innovation throughout New York. Jeff was an active mentor to Syracuse University student startups and a valued member of our regional innovation ecosystem here in Central New York.

About FuzeHub:  FuzeHub is a not-for-profit organization that connects New York’s small and mid-sized manufacturing companies to the resources, programs, and expertise they need for technology commercialization, innovation, and business growth.  FuzeHub is the statewide New York Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program (MEP) center, supported by Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology & Innovation. For more information on FuzeHub, visit FuzeHub.