WV-based AmeriCarbon secures its first Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant with the Department of Defense, a meaningful step in the advancement of the company.
Following the announcement last August that $4.9 million in federal, state, and county funding had been secured for their new carbon manufacturing plant in Wyoming County, West Virginia, Morgantown-based AmeriCarbon has been awarded its first SBIR contract with the United States Air Force.
“This opens up an entirely new market,” says AmeriCarbon CEO Dave Berry. “That’s why this particular SBIR is extremely important and exciting for us.”
The SBIR (or Small Business Innovation Research) program is a competitive program funded by the federal government and designed to encourage businesses to engage in high-impact Research and Development (R&D) with the potential for commercialization.
AmeriCarbon’s business model is based on developing new ways for coal to be chemically transformed into advanced carbon materials to support a domestic supply chain for electric vehicles (EVs) and other emerging markets. “We have had very good success in working with our collaborators to convert our Eco-PitchTM into high-performance battery-grade graphite,” says Berry. In a similar way, AmeriCarbon’s Eco-PitchTM can be tailored to various carbon-based products needed by the defense sector and more particularly for this effort, the United States Air Force. “This [contract] opens up an important market segment for AmeriCarbon, and that’s why this particular SBIR is so exciting for us.”
The company’s products have three primary benefits: greenhouse emission reduction compared to competitive materials, customizability, and ensuring domestic economic independence through shoring up a previously exposed supply chain. Currently, carbon feedstock materials are often purchased overseas from China.
“The Defense Department is always concerned with economics, but it goes beyond that,” says Berry. “It’s a national security concern, a need for domestic capability, and a desire for long-term supply and support. All those things line up extremely well with AmeriCarbon’s mission.”
AmeriCarbon’s capabilities were quickly noticed with Vertx’s help. Vertx President and retired USAF Colonel Sean Frisbee says, “When we first started to engage AmeriCarbon with some of the prime contractors and the United States Air Force, they said, ‘Oh my gosh, we desperately need this.’”
“We would not have this award if it were not for the help from Vertx Partners,” says AmeriCarbon VP of Corporate Development Greg Henthorn. “They have coached us in terms of developing our proposal, but more importantly in how to present our solution to the Defense Department and connecting us with prime contractors who are already in the supply chain.”
“[Vertx is] an invaluable service, and the more we interact with them, the more it’s clear they have a lot of connectivity and expertise in that domain because it really is its own ecosystem and culture,” says Dave Berry, referring to the realm of federal contracting. “Vertx is happy to help people and especially to help the state of West Virginia.”
Colonel Frisbee is optimistic that this partnership signals good news for the entire industry. “I think there are a lot of companies out there that have unique technology and materials, and we can connect them with key people in the U.S. Air Force who may be looking for such a solution,” he says.
To learn more about Vertx Partners and how to better navigate federal contracting opportunities, individuals may visit vertxpartners.org.