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SALT LAKE CITY — A California tech company is moving its headquarters to northern Utah to partner with Utah State University researchers to develop better battery technology.
Electric Power Systems and USU recently became the newest recipients of a grant from the Utah Science Technology and Research, or USTAR, initiative through the Industry Partnership Program.
The program "promotes the development, acceleration and commercialization of innovative technologies by teaming industry and university research expertise to address specific technology problems or gaps identified by a company," according to USTAR's website.
EP Systems announced relocation to Logan specifically to take advantage of the Industry Partnership Program, as well as other state programs and opportunities such as working with scientists and engineers at USU, explained co-founder and CEO Nathan Millecam.
"Cache Valley was of particular interest to us because of the university there," Millecam said. "When we look at engineering talent, we generally look in software or embedded systems, mechanical aerospace engineering and power electronics. If we can find a school that hits on one or two of those, it's usually a good match for us. Utah State hit on all three of those."
The company develops high-performance, low-cost energy storage systems for high-reliability applications, specifically focusing on the aerospace sector. The partnership between EP Systems and USU aligns with USTAR’s mission to accelerate the commercialization of technologies to benefit the state, explained USTAR Executive Director Ivy Estabrooke.
“This is a great example of the type of industry-university collaboration we hoped to see when the (Industry Partnership Program) launched,” Estabrooke said. “EP Systems will strengthen Utah’s innovation ecosystem through its partnership with USU.”
EP Systems’ presence in Utah will greatly impact the state’s established aerospace sector, she said, and production of two battery projects will bring substantial revenues to Utah’s economy, along with an estimated 120-160 new jobs created over the next several years.
Millecam said Utah provides a very attractive recruiting ground for future employee talent, as well as talented professors with whom the company can perform advanced research. The state also offers a business-friendly environment that will allow the company to meet its long-term manufacturing goals in an economic and effective manner, he said.
The site of the new company facility will be near the Logan airport, where researchers and engineers can potentially do testing of their lithium-ion battery technology more readily, Millecam said.
"As batteries become higher capacity and higher voltage, the testing gets more and more challenging to do," he said. "This USTAR grant gives us and the state of Utah a strategic asset to emerge as one of the leaders in (developing) these really complex energy storage systems for aircraft and for (federal certification).
"This could open up some really big doors for us and the state of Utah," Millecam added.
The Industry Partnership Program is focused on creating pipelines between industry and academia by identifying technology gaps within a company that can be solved by researchers at Utah institutions of higher learning, Estabrooke explained.
USTAR acts as a matchmaker between the two entities and provides matching funds for the collaborative project, she noted. The relatively new program already has multiple participants across the state.
"What we see in this example is that (the program) is a great tool to attract companies from outside of the state to relocate to Utah to collaborate with the universities and take advantage of the business climate here in Utah," Estabrooke said.