MatterCup Wins Big Bang! Sustainability Award

MatterCup Wins Big Bang! Sustainability Award

At the final Big Bang! event on May 26, cup recycler MatterCup walked away with $11,000 from the SMUD Energy and Sustainability Award and one of the Little Bang awards. MatterCup was also a finalist in the UC Berkeley Big Ideas competition.  Congratulations to Chantal Deslauriers and Lorenz Lehmann!  Their innovation is a system that uses a heavy-duty polypropylene cup that users can bring back to any participating store and get a $1 refund on their original deposit.  The cup is dishwasher-safe and can be used multiple times.  A smartphone app will show where the participating locations are, making the program attractive to the stores that use MatterCups because of the increased traffic.  The target customer for the MatterCup system is an independent coffee shop or juice shop that wants to demonstrate a commitment to cutting waste from the 120 billion single-use cups that are thrown away each year.  The store would be charged a subscription fee to use the system.  

The idea was inspired by a system Chantal saw in Germany during the year she was staying there during the height of the pandemic.  At Christmas Fairs there, hot chocolate was served in reusable mugs, and it sparked the question whether something similar but customized for the US market might do well.  As more and more people have heard about MatterCup now, Chantal says she is hearing from more and more people that they can’t wait to try it out.  A good sign.

MatterCup will be using their winnings to fund a test of their product at the UCDavis Coffee House this summer.  The team believes their system will be more acceptable to customers than the more expensive travel mugs that users must wash or the compostable cups.  With what they learn, they hope to be able to refine the offering and get 50 stores signed up in the first year.

We will be keeping track of the progress of MatterCup and will invite them to a future Perspectives event to hear how the demo on campus worked out, as well as their future plans. 

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

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Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

Venture Catalyst Expanding at UC Davis

Venture Catalyst Expanding at UC Davis

Janine Elliott was our guest on October 12 for a Perspectives podcast, explaining her new role.  She comes to us from 6 years at VentureWell in Amherst, MA, one of the best- funded and most complete tech incubators, and from the Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator, which we know well.  She has a Green MBA from the Dominican University of California and a BA in Environmental Policy from Colby College.   She also contributed a chapter chapter on navigating the entrepreneurial ecosystem for a best selling book on “How to Commercialize Chemical Technologies for a Sustainable Future”.  

Janine now works with our friend Ryan Sharp, as the Associate Director for Physical Sciences and Engineering, in tandem with Mike Lemcke who has a parallel role with Life Sciences.  She is part of significant expansion in UCD’s commitment to nurturing and supporting new ventures, primarily coming from research on campus, but also available to anyone in the wider community.

As you may know, Venture Catalyst provides resources through 4 programs 

  • Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR) Grants—funding Proof-of-Concept for innovations
  • Smart Toolkit for Accelerated Research Translation (START)—Equipping entrepreneurs with the tools, resources, and services they need to form and grow prosperous companies 
  • Economic Engagement Economic Engagement and Community Outreach (EECO) Systems–facilitating connections between startups and the regional innovation and economic development ecosystem
  • Distributed Research Incubation and Venture Engine (DRIVE) Network–offering early-stage startups access to shared office and technical research and developmental space through a Distributed Incubator Network

Things you maybe didn’t know are that they provide a Knowledge Exchange Speakers Series where they bring in experts for webinars or in-person presentations, and those are available in their YouTube channel along with recordings of the training sessions done for the Big Bang.

And talking about the Big Bang, the kickoff meeting is November 15, likely a virtual meeting, so watch for more details.

Some of you may recall that this greater commitment to supporting new ventures at UCD began with the arrival of Linda Katehi as the new chancellor and then the addition of Dushyant Pathak as the spearhead of Venture Catalyst, both of which have now moved to other pastures.  It is impressive to see how much since then the program has grown in depth and breadth.  Janine included a couple of slides on the complete venture support network at UCD.   It is a resource you all should lean on.  Lots of good stuff going on.  Welcome, Janine.  You bring a wealth of experience from which we are sure to benefit.  Drop in our events whenever you can.

 

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStart's Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | TobinBlueTech Valley, Revrnt, River City Bank

Moss AdamsPowerSoft.biz, Greenberg Traurig, California Mobility Center

CleanStart Todos with Ryan Barr COO of Repurpose Energy

CleanStart Todos with Ryan Barr COO of Repurpose Energy

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College of Engineering & Computer Science

at Sacramento State

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Happy 50th Earth Day!

Happy 50th Earth Day!

This week on April 22 is the 50th anniversary of that first Earth Day in 1970.  One of my first blogs here described how that day had a profound effect on my career, changing from medicine to environmental science.  It is also how I ended up at UC Davis. It was one of two schools that actually offered a graduate degree in the area.  The other was Cornell. I was accepted at both. It was an easy choice. UC Davis had a scholarship fund sponsored by the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation and that provided a full ride plus a research assistantship.  Cornell did not. My wife and I packed our bags at Indiana University and started the drive west to go to a school and a town I had never set foot in before. It was a leap of faith.

I remember we arrived in Davis and fell in love with it.  We both had the same reaction, “We’re never leaving this place.”  From that day, I have never been without a home in Davis. I have rented it out several times while working in Texas, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, but always came back.  Here I am still.

It was at Davis that I had another epiphany.  I came there to work on the ecology of lakes and streams.  My undergraduate degree was in microbiology so it seemed a logical extension.  Part of that time as an undergraduate was spent doing research in Yellowstone Park.  My IU professor Tom Brock and one of his graduate students had discovered a strange bacterium called Thermus Aquaticus that grew in boiling water there.  That led to a revolution in DNA analysis, but that’s another story.  If you are curious, read this.

However, in my first year at UC Davis, I took a class from Prof. Ken Watt on emerging environmental issues.  We had to do a term paper. Scientific American had just run an issue focusing on energy as one of the biggest of those issues, so I chose that topic.  Prof. Watt told me if I wanted to focus on energy, I should read an important scientific paper by a chemist working for Royal Dutch Shell by the name of John M. O’Bockris.  It was on the importance of a hydrogen economy and how that might work. But Watt pointed me to one paragraph where O’Bockris wrote that continued burning of fossil fuels was going to increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Because of its greenhouse effect that extra carbon dioxide would raise the average global temperature. Watt simply said, “I think that has tremendous implications and you should think out where that would lead.” Actually, since that day I have never stopped thinking about it.  It hit me like a pie in the face. How soon would it happen? How could you figure that out? What could you do about It? What would it take?

Prof. Watt was in the process of writing a book he titled The Titanic Effect.  Its theme was that there were a number of huge environmental challenges ahead of the world like icebergs in the North Atlantic, but that the first reaction would be denial…until you hit one of them.  After the shock of the surprise, the first response would be to rely on technology to solve the problem and avoid any economic consequences. The next step was overconfidence in that solution until attention waned and the next collision would be a whopper with huge economic impacts.  Prophetic book. Most thought it was too radical. It’s out of print. But I got to help on the chapter on energy and earned a small acknowledgment.  

I can’t say my career has been a straight line from then to now.  It’s actually been a lot more random. But that early warning about global climate change is always something I remember.

How different things are 50 years later, but how predictable.  O’Bockris gave the world the gift of a huge heads-up with enough time to do something about it.  Of course, the reaction to that 1962 article was denial and of course that just made things worse.  Prof. Watt was not so radical after all, just ahead of his time. And now we are in the midst of another “unexpected” collision with an iceberg called COVID-19.  It’s a classic pattern. And now I’m thinking about those classes in virology and epidemiology I took at IU. Full circle.  

I am grateful for all the places fate has taken me, but looking back I am particularly grateful for having grown up in a time when science and education were regarded as important.  Turns out, they were.

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Simon is the Chair of CleanStarts Board. A seasoned energy executive and entrepreneur with 45 years of experience in business, government, and non-profits.

CleanStart Sponsors

Weintraub | Tobin, EY, Stoel Rives 

BlueTech Valley, PowerSoft.biz

College of Engineering & Computer Science at Sacramento State


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