The STC.UNM Co-investment Fund Committee has approved funding for Albuquerque start-up Pajarito Powder LLC.The company is commercializing technology developed at the University of New Mexico. The early-stage investment will help the company move its technology toward product development and expansion of markets. STC's investment in the company will be matched by a co-investment from an outside venture capital fund or angel group.
Pajarito Powder LLC was formed in 2012 to commercialize and scale-up non-platinum catalysts invented by Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Plamen Atanassov and his team at UNM's Center for Emerging Energy Technologies. The company is manufacturing and selling non-platinum, drop-in replacement catalysts for fuel cells and is the only volume supplier of non-precious metal catalysts.
The STC committee approved an investment amount of $100,000. Chairman and CEO Tom Stephenson said: "We are delighted to have the participation of the Co-investment Fund in our current round of financing. We feel that the Fund's investment is a strong endorsement of our efforts to commercialize technology licensed from STC.UNM, and the cash will allow us to accelerate that process."
The UNM catalyst technology eliminates most of the need to use platinum, an expensive and scarce precious metal and the major barrier to manufacturing affordable fuel cells. Currently, nearly 40 per cent of a fuel cell's cost is attributable to its platinum-based catalyst. Using non-precious metal catalysts is the key to accelerating the growth of the fuel-cell industry. The catalyst powder is inexpensive to make and easy to scale, can be custom designed, and is protected by a portfolio of patents. The company is focused on the stationary back-up power and portable power markets but is also gearing up to address the needs of the automotive market where fuel cell technology is being used on a pilot scale.
The co-investment fund was established by the UNM Regents in 2014. In 2012, STC saw the need to join local investors in making additional capital available to help young companies commercializing UNM technologies grow to their next level of development and proposed the creation of a co-investment fund. The proposal was submitted to the UNM Foundation for funding consideration. After review by the UNM Foundation's Investment Committee, a policy was developed to provide procedures and criteria for making investments from the fund.
The UNM Foundation submitted the proposal for a co-investment fund for UNM start-up companies to the UNM Board of Regents. The Regents approved the establishment of the fund at their April 8, 2014 meeting. The Fund allows the Foundation, under its private equity investment policy, to co-invest with local investment firms in UNM start-up companies that are created from technologies developed at the University of New Mexico. The fund is administered by STC.UNM. Fund requirements include investing only in UNM start-up companies, a cap on the investment amount in any one company, investing as a co-investor matched on a 1-to-1 basis by a venture capital fund or an angel group, and review and approval of all investments by a co-investment committee.
STC CEO & UNM's Chief Economic Development Officer, Lisa Kuuttila, is pleased that the co-investment program is underway. "We need a stronger investment community to help these companies grow and expand our economy and we believe that the STC.UNM Co-investment Fund is a significant step in the right direction. We were impressed with the company's progress to date and strong management team and our assessment is that they are poised to reach their next commercialization goals. We're excited to be a part of that."