News From the East Bay Green Corridor

Imprint Energy Makes its Mark in Alameda

A recent graduate of UC Berkeley’s Cleantech 2 Market (C2M) program from the Haas School of Business, Imprint Energy hopes to revolutionize small rechargeable battery systems. Founded by Haas graduate Brooks Kincaid and Berkeley Ph.D in materials science, Christine Ho, the startup serves as a success story for the transition from university research to commercial enterprise, or what the Green Corridor calls, its “cradle to scale” model.

Imprint Energy creates rechargeable zinc batteries, an entirely new product. “It’s not like making a new flavor of lithium ion or making another alkaline battery,” said Kincaid in a recent interview. “We’re pioneering a new materials system.”

Because of zinc’s stable, safe properties—so safe, Imprint Energy processes and tests its batteries in the open air—the batteries require minimal protective packaging. This results in thin, flexible and printable batteries, ideal for small, portable electronics, one market Imprint targets. “What we’re looking to become is a replacement technology for the incumbent lithium-polymer technology for these kinds of devices,” said Kincaid.

Growing Up, Moving Out

After incubating on campus, Kincaid and Ho, with an infusion of cash in hand, including prize money, grants and non-institutional funding, decided to establish their own facility. For help finding a location, Kincaid turned to the Green Corridor’s Carla Din, who referred him to an opportunity site in Alameda represented by CM Commercial Real Estate’s, Bob Tasker. CM Commercial assisted the startup with evaluating costs; analyzing the market; determining lease rights; providing proper documentation; and finding, negotiating and securing a suitable space.

“We didn’t have a great sense of what we would need,” said Kincaid. Tasker encouraged the team to look to the future, pointing out that a smaller, more affordable space could be problematic when the company, which currently employs 10 people, grows. “That kind of experience was helpful for us in making a selection that was appropriate for our stage and future plans,” said Kincaid.

In February, Imprint Energy moved to Alameda, into a 3100 square-foot space with an existing wet lab, formerly occupied by Abbott, a medical device company. R&D chemistry work began immediately. “A lot of the key elements [in the lab] would have cost us perhaps a hundred and fifty thousand in tenant improvements,” said Kincaid.

Future Plans

Currently, Imprint Energy is scaling its team, capabilities and technology, working on a number of customer development agreements and continuing its transition to a commercial company.

“It’s a long, hard process, the transition from university to pre-commercial,” said Kincaid. “So far, so good.” The Green Corridor and its network of real-estate brokers helped make that transition a smoother one.

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