Tag: Science and Technology

Global Water Tech Leader Expands in Delaware

Global Water Technologies Leader Solenis Chooses Delaware for $40M Expansion

Growth in Wilmington Driven by Increasing Market Demand for Company’s Sustainability-focused Products and Expertise


WILMINGTON, Del. — Delaware-based global water technologies leader Solenis has chosen its hometown of Wilmington as the site for a $40 million research and development expansion.

In response to increasing market demand for its sustainability-focused products and expertise and with an eye toward long-term growth, Solenis will expand its R&D operations with a move to the 100,000-square-foot Building 713 at Chestnut Run Innovation and Science Park (CRISP). CRISP is a former DuPont campus that MRA Group is developing into a hub for a range of life sciences and advanced chemical companies.

Solenis is a global leader in supplying innovative specialty chemicals and services for process, functional, and water treatment applications to consumer and industrial markets.

The new CRISP facility will provide Solenis with 20,000 square feet more lab space than the company currently has at its existing R&D center on Ashland’s Wilmington campus. In addition to more space, the larger, upgraded site will allow Solenis to add up to 46 new highly skilled Delaware jobs — including lab technicians, scientists and R&D supervisors — within the next three years.

“Solenis chose to build their global water technologies in Wilmington. This week’s announcement shows their continued commitment to our state and workforce,” said Governor John Carney. “Solenis will expand its research and development operations to a 100,000-square-foot building. Thank you to Solenis for continuing to strengthen Delaware’s workforce and science and technology sector.”

Solenis is a vital part of Delaware’s science and technology sector and is a significant Delaware employer. Choosing to invest in a new facility in Wilmington will provide Solenis with the opportunity to grow its R&D team to support projected growth while solidifying its commitment to Delaware.

Originally spun off from Ashland and headquartered at Wilmington’s Avenue North since 2020, Solenis has 48 manufacturing facilities and more than 6,400 employees around the world to serve an array of industries in 120 countries. Solenis currently employs more than 300 in Delaware, with approximately 185 employees at the Avenue North headquarters and 140 employees at its Ashland R&D site. Both are located in Northern Delaware’s New Castle County.

“What the MRA Group has done for the CRISP campus is transformative for our County,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “The redeveloped campus gives our existing Delaware companies that are expanding a home to grow and thrive. New Castle County is proud to continue to be the home of Solenis, which provides great jobs in our community producing innovative and sustainable solutions for everyday life.”

Solenis officials presented an application to Delaware’s Council on Development Finance (CDF) for a Jobs Performance Grant of $552,000 and a Delaware Lab Space Grant of $3.5 million from the Delaware Strategic Fund to support the company’s investment of $40 million. Distribution of grants from the Delaware Strategic Fund are dependent on the company meeting commitments as outlined to the CDF, which reviewed and approved the Solenis team’s request for up to $4.052 million in total grant funding.

“Solenis has deep roots in Delaware, so we are pleased to announce our continued commitment to growing in the state at CRISP,” said John Panichella, CEO, Solenis. “This investment of moving our Wilmington research center to a contemporary new location, in combination with our recently opened headquarters at Avenue North, allows us to continue to attract, retain and recruit the highest caliber of employees.”

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About Delaware Prosperity Partnership

Delaware Prosperity Partnership leads Delaware’s economic development efforts to attract, grow and retain businesses; to build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem; and to support employers in place marketing Delaware to potential employees via livelovedelaware.com. The DPP team works with site selectors, executives and developers focused on where to locate or grow a business and helps with reviewing potential sites, cost-of-living analyses and funding opportunities, including available tax credits and incentives. DPP advances a culture of innovation in Delaware, working with innovators and startups to spotlight and celebrate successes and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. DPP and its partnerships throughout Delaware support and advance the missions of companies of all sizes and sectors.

About Solenis

Solenis is a leading global producer of specialty chemicals focused on delivering sustainable solutions for water-intensive industries, including the pulp, packaging paper and board, tissue and towel, oil and gas, petroleum refining, chemical processing, mining, biorefining, power, municipal, and pool and spa markets. Owned by Platinum Equity, the company’s product portfolio includes a broad array of water treatment chemistries, process aids and functional additives, as well as state-of-the-art monitoring and control systems. These technologies are used by customers to improve operational efficiencies, enhance product quality, protect plant assets, minimize environmental impact and maintain healthy water. Headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, the company has 48 manufacturing facilities strategically located around the globe and employs a team of over 6,400 professionals in 120 countries across five continents. Solenis is a 2022 US Best Managed Company. For additional information about Solenis, please visit www.solenis.com or follow us on social media.

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Biopharma Company Uvax Bio Chooses Delaware

Early-Stage Biopharma Company Uvax Bio Chooses Delaware for $8M Investment in Next Level of Growth

Expansion of vaccine research, development and commercialization operations bringing 63 new jobs to Newark over next three years


WILMINGTON, Del. – Uvax Bio LLC, an early-stage biopharmaceutical company with cutting-edge vaccine platform technology that has produced both COVID-19 and HIV-1 vaccine candidates, has chosen to grow in Newark, Delaware, where it has been headquartered since forming in 2018.

As part of its expansion, Uvax Bio plans to add 63 employees to its current five-member team. Positions will range from research associates to executive-level research directors with minimum salaries ranging from $45,000 to more than $130,000.

“Uvax Bio LLC is an innovative company in the science and technology sector, specializing in vaccine platform technology. Today’s announcement to grow in Newark shows their continued commitment to our state and workforce,” said Governor John Carney. “Uvax Bio plans to increase their employees tenfold with this expansion. Thank you to Uvax Bio for their commitment to Delaware’s rapidly growing life sciences sector.”

To accommodate its next level of growth, the company has relocated to 100 Biddle Avenue in Springside Plaza off Route 40. Plans there include renovating the site’s existing wet lab and office space into a facility ideal for achieving the company’s goal of developing vaccines that support public health and improve life.

Uvax Bio is an innovative part of Delaware’s rapidly growing life sciences sector. The company maintains vital partnerships with Newark-based, internationally known industry players such as the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals and the University of Delaware.

“New Castle County is proud to be home of another life sciences company that is providing life-changing vaccines for the world,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “Uvax is a great example of when science and innovation merge into solutions that will save lives.”

Uvax Bio was formed to develop and commercialize next-generation vaccines to address infectious diseases that threaten global health. Uvax Bio holds an exclusive license agreement with California-based nonprofit biomedical research facility Scripps Research that covers 11 patented and proprietary 1c-SApNP® vaccines. The company’s platform technology is based on computational biology and rational design. These cutting-edge scientific tools were used to design the Uvax, an all-in-one, viruslike nanoparticle design and a one-for-all, simple manufacturing process invented by Uvax Bio co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer Jiang Zhu, Professor of Scripps Research.

The opportunity for Uvax Bio to take their two lead vaccine candidates for COVID-19 and HIV-1 into Phase 1 trials represents a major milestone for the company. While the company’s two lead candidates are entering human trials, Uvax plans to raise additional capital in order to advance other promising new vaccine candidates toward Phase 1 readiness.

During today’s meeting of Delaware’s Council on Development Finance, Uvax Bio officials presented an application for a Jobs Performance Grant of up to $1,061,955 and a Capital Expenditures Grant of up to $240,000 from the Delaware Strategic Fund. Distribution of grants from the Delaware Strategic Fund are dependent on the company meeting commitments as outlined to the CDF, which reviewed and approved Uvax Bio’s request for up to $1,301,955 in total grant funding.

“The team at Uvax Bio is passionate about our mission to design and deliver groundbreaking vaccines to address global threats from infectious disease,” said Ji Li, Ph.D., Uvax CEO. “We are very excited to build a team of talented scientific, business and administrative professionals right here in the Newark, Delaware, area!”

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About Delaware Prosperity Partnership

Delaware Prosperity Partnership (choosedelaware.com) leads Delaware’s economic development efforts to attract, grow and retain businesses; to build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem; and to support employers in place marketing Delaware to potential employees via livelovedelaware.com. The DPP team works with site selectors, executives and developers focused on where to locate or grow a business and helps with reviewing potential sites, cost-of-living analyses and funding opportunities, including available tax credits and incentives. DPP advances a culture of innovation in Delaware, working with innovators and startups to spotlight and celebrate successes and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. DPP and its partnerships throughout Delaware support and advance the missions of companies of all sizes and sectors.

About Uvax Bio

Founded in early 2018, Uvax Bio, a spinoff vaccine company from Scripps Research, employs proprietary 1c-SApNP® platform technology developed by Dr. Jiang Zhu of Scripps Research to develop and commercialize prophylactic vaccines for the most challenging infectious diseases. Uvax Bio’s mission is working to solve the world’s infectious disease threats by combining rational antigen design and protein engineering to create viruslike particle vaccines. Its vision is to become a global leader in the vaccine industry and offer vaccine solutions for unmet public health needs.

Kurt Foreman

PRESIDENT & CEO

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Royale Group Expanding to 2nd Delaware Site

Royale Group Expanding to Second Delaware Location

Company adding Royale Pigments & Chemicals site in Seaford to AWSM Solutions Delaware site in Bear, doubling its Delaware presence in just two years.


(WILMINGTON, Del.) – Royale Pigments & Chemicals, part of The Royale Group collection of specialty chemical companies, has chosen Seaford, Delaware, as the site for a $2.35 million expansion that will double The Royale Group’s Delaware presence since it relocated from New Jersey two years ago.

Royale’s investment in Sussex County includes purchase of the former BASF Polymer Plant at 100 Industrial Park Boulevard that is now owned by Delmarva Central Railroad. DCR operates a transloading facility at the on-site rail spur located there, but the building itself is underutilized with no active operations at present.

“The chemical industry has long been part of Delaware’s economy. Over the next three years, The Royale Group plans to purchase an underutilized site in Seaford, bringing new jobs and economic growth to Sussex County,” said Governor John Carney. “This will be Royale’s second facility in the state, showing their commitment to growing their business here. This campus is only possible because of Delaware’s world-class innovative workforce. Thank you to The Royale Group, the town of Seaford, the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and everyone else who made this acquisition possible.”

In 2020, Delaware Prosperity Partnership began working with The Royale Group as it made its first investment in Delaware by acquiring IMS Chemblend and the IMS facility at 400 Carson Drive in Bear, changing the operation’s name to AWSM Solutions Delaware and relocating Royale’s corporate headquarters from New Jersey to the New Castle County property. The company’s $1 million investment included adding 17 new jobs, and AWSM already has surpassed its job-growth projections with 30 active employees.

While continuing to invest and grow its Northern Delaware operations, Royale’s expansion to a second Delaware location with on-site rail access will allow it to better serve a growing roster of customers and secure new contracts with leading companies throughout the region. Royale’s Southern Delaware investment includes creating 29 new jobs – including chemical operator, maintenance/warehouse and manager/supervisor positions – over the next three years. 

Royale officials presented an application to Delaware’s Council on Development Finance for a Jobs Performance Grant of $177,930 and a Capital Expenditure Grant of $70,500 from the Delaware Strategic Fund to support the company’s investment of more than $2.35 million. Distribution of grants from the Delaware Strategic Fund are dependent on the company meeting commitments as outlined to the CDF, which reviewed and approved Royale’s request for up to $248,430 in total grant funding.

 “We are very excited to welcome Royale Pigments & Chemicals to Seaford, Delaware,” said Seaford Mayor David Genshaw. “Our city has seen an incredible wave of revitalization with the help of Delaware Prosperity Partnership, and we are grateful for their support and for Royale Pigments & Chemicals for choosing Seaford.” 

The Royale Group was drawn to establish operations in Delaware by the state’s educated workforce, lower cost of living and business-friendly government. Royale has quickly become an important part of Delaware’s chemical manufacturing and distribution sector, and its decision to invest in a second Delaware facility demonstrates its continued commitment to growing here.

“Delaware has been a great place to do business! There are many valuable resources to help start or move a business to the state,” said Royale Group CEO John Logue. “These resources range from the Delaware Prosperity Partnership to a dedicated and assigned omnibus person from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, providing assistance with Delaware’s regulatory agency. We are excited with the expansion of our manufacturing operation in Delaware.”

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 About Delaware Prosperity Partnership

Delaware Prosperity Partnership (choosedelaware.com) leads Delaware’s economic development efforts to attract, grow and retain businesses; to build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem; and to support  employers in place marketing Delaware to potential employees via livelovedelaware.com. The DPP team works with site selectors, executives and developers focused on where to locate or grow a business and helps with reviewing potential sites, cost-of-living analyses and funding opportunities, including available tax credits and incentives. DPP advances a culture of innovation in Delaware, working with innovators and startups to spotlight and celebrate successes and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. DPP and its partnerships throughout Delaware support and advance the missions of companies of all sizes and sectors.

 About The Royale Group

The Royale Group, recipient of the 2019 National Association of Chemical Distributors’ prestigious Distributor of the Year award, is a collection of specialty chemical companies that manufactures, formulates and distributes chemicals. Specifically, Royale Pigments & Chemicals distributes specialty colorants into the paint, coatings and fire retardants markets. Shorechem distributes and manufactures specialty chemicals into the pharma, metals, aerospace and automotive markets. AWSM Industries distributes and manufactures specialty chemicals into the chip fabrication, automotive and gas markets. Most recently acquired in 2020, AWSM Solutions toll manufactures, blends, formulates, breaks bulk packages and provides labels for products in the following markets: organic agrochem, pharma, electronics, cleaners, aerospace, marine and construction.

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Versogen Chooses Delaware for Expansion

WILMINGTON, Del. – Versogen, an industry-leading green energy startup, has chosen Delaware as the site for a $4.8 million expansion that includes moving its operations from The Innovation Space in Wilmington, Delaware, to larger, upgraded facilities at FMC Stine Research Center in Newark, Delaware.

Versogen targets deep decarbonization of the sectors of our economy that are not possible by green electricity. The startup is focused on anion-exchange membranes (AEMs) and AEM based electrolyzers to produce low-cost green hydrogen at scale. The company’s systems are engineered to make green hydrogen affordable and sustainable – from the materials used in manufacturing through to the costs of operations.

“Delaware has been a hub for innovation for decades. Versogen is the latest success out of Delaware’s Innovation Space and a great example of the collaborative environment we have for economic development in our state,” said Governor John Carney. “We are excited for Versogen’s expansion, bringing new jobs and important technologies to New Castle County.”

Versogen’s investment includes renovating Stine Building 115 and creating additional lab space at the site, which will be fully operational by 2024. The company’s relocation will accommodate its next level of operations, which includes adding forty-nine new jobs over the next three years to the 16 positions currently staffing the company.

“New Castle County is the ideal place for startup companies like Versogen to create innovative green technologies,” said New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer. “We are proud to welcome Versogen and know that it will find the first-rate talent for employees and further growth.”

Officials from FMC agreed.

“At the FMC Stine Research Center, we work hard to change the world for the better,” said Dr. Kathleen Shelton, FMC executive vice president and chief technology officer. “We are excited to welcome Versogen and applaud them for developing industry-leading green energy technologies. We appreciate Delaware Prosperity Partnership for the continued collaboration and actively building a strong entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem in the State of Delaware.”

Versogen officials presented today to Delaware’s Council on Development Finance the company’s application for a Delaware Lab Space Grant of $450,380 and a Jobs Performance Grant of $151,343 from the Delaware Strategic Fund to support the company’s investment of more than $4.8 million. Distribution of grants from the Delaware Strategic Fund are dependent on the company meeting commitments as outlined to the CDF, which reviewed and approved Versogen’s request for up to $601,723 in total grant funding.

“Versogen has been strongly supported by the State of Delaware directly or indirectly from its inception,” said Yushan Yan, Versogen co-founder and CEO. “The grants approved today for Versogen from the Delaware Strategic Fund demonstrate Delaware’s unwavering commitment to building a vibrant entrepreneurial environment for startups and to providing critically needed facilities grants for them to grow.”

Versogen began with research conducted in Yan’s lab in his role as Henry B. du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. As Yan said, Delaware recognized the startup’s promise right away. So did entities throughout the United States, with numerous supporting the company’s work to bring to market a new class of polymer membranes that will make green hydrogen and fuel cells more economical.

Originally branded as W7 Energy and rebranded as Versogen in 2021, the company has been supported by more than $5 million in grants. These include the prestigious BIRD Project grant in 2020 and selection as one of three startups for the fourth cohort of the Shell GameChanger Accelerator (GCxN) program in 2021.

Earlier this year, Versogen closed a Series A funding round that raised $14.5 million. This investment allows the company to scale development of its low-cost green hydrogen electrolyzer stacks.

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About Delaware Prosperity Partnership

Delaware Prosperity Partnership leads Delaware’s economic development efforts to attract, grow and retain businesses; to build a stronger entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem; and to support employers in place marketing Delaware to potential employees via livelovedelaware.com. The DPP team works with site selectors, executives and developers focused on where to locate or grow a business and helps with reviewing potential sites, cost-of-living analyses and funding opportunities, including available tax credits and incentives. DPP advances a culture of innovation in Delaware, working with innovators and startups to spotlight and celebrate successes and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. DPP and its partnerships throughout Delaware support and advance the missions of companies of all sizes and sectors.

About Versogen

Versogen is an industry-leading green energy startup founded by Yushan Yan, the Henry B. du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. The company’s focus is decarbonizing heavy, hard-to-abate carbon by producing low-cost green hydrogen with its zero-emission AEM electrolyzer that uses natural materials, water and renewable energy to produce hydrogen at scale. Versogen systems are engineered to make green hydrogen affordable and sustainable – from the materials used in manufacturing right through to the costs of operations.

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Nemser Team Tackles Carbon-Capture in Plants

Delaware Firm Focuses on Low-cost Carbon Capture Technology


When people talk about climate change, they usually focus on behavior change, clean electricity, driving electric cars and using wind and solar power. But Compact Membrane Systems (CMS) CEO Erica Nemser focuses on carbon capture — reducing emissions from the production of things that we want and need: steel for buildings; plastic production for cars, buildings, and medical equipment; and cement for roads.

A pioneer in separations technology, New Castle-based CMS has launched a long-awaited pilot demonstration of its proprietary Optiperm membrane technology at Braskem’s Marcus Hook petrochemicals facility, laying the groundwork for broader application of its low-cost carbon-capture technology.

“I tell people I work in the planet-friendly, sustainable chemistry space,” Nemser says. “It’s really difficult to move production of the things we depend on every day to clean electricity, so we’re capturing the CO2 (carbon dioxide) produced from those processes before it leaves the smokestack. We’re concentrating that CO2 so that it can be used or sequestered underground, leading to more products and fewer emissions.”

“I don’t think anyone really wants a solution where we have to say no to steel and cement and some of the things that enable us to live the kind of lives we live and develop the medicines and the healthcare and other materials that we use,” she says.

That’s her pitch to the layman, but when Nemser talks to prospective investors or users of her carbon-capturing membranes, they understand the benefits for hard-to-abate industries but want to know what makes CMS special.

The company’s Optiperm technology uses membranes to separate the gases used to create plastics (olefins) from fuels (paraffins). Industry journals have described CMS’s efforts to develop membranes with commercial applications as a process improvement that could “change the world [and] reap great global benefits” through heightened energy efficiency.

Nemser says CMS is a leader in offering membrane technologies for carbon capture.

“There’s an existing commercial technology for carbon capture now; it’s just expensive and difficult to use in a range of applications,” she says. “Many new developments are still [in the lab] and face many technology risks. We’re far, far ahead of those. We believe Optiperm offers benefits from a cost and ease-of-use standpoint and can address the needs of customers that want a carbon capture system — steam methane reformers, plants making blue hydrogen, and steel plants and cement plants.

“At the end of the day, keeping the cost low is important because the CO2 is essentially an emission stream that nobody wants, so they want to do it as inexpensively as possible. We can make applications of all sizes under their operating conditions. Others in our business can’t say that.”

Nemser says CMS has two customers — manufacturing plants…and the planet. Optiperm will help manufacturers meet goals tied to the Paris accords (and others) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and reduce their CO2 footprint over different timelines ranging from 2025 to 2050. Other prospective partners already have underground carbon-capture facilities and need partners like CMS to serve those customers at a more reasonable price.

As for the planet, she says “every molecule of CO2 that we take out of a smokestack and avoid going into the environment is a net gain.”

The Optiperm project with Braskem is the largest demonstration yet of its membrane doing a separation. A scaled-down version of the commercial system that CMS can deliver today, it’s a 500-day project that is already generating data that has the CMS team excited about hitting all its goals.

“We’ll get a lot of data over the next 18 months or so, but we believe we’ll be able to prove what our technology can offer well before that,” Nemser says. “This is not a science project confined to a lab. It’s a significant technology validation and proof point for investors and partners. We’ll be showing them this technology works at a commercial scale and will remove megatons of carbon from the environment.”

The primary metric that determines success is the cost of capture on a per-ton basis.

“The world expects us to be able to capture at least 90% of the CO2 that’s being emitted in a stream and get it to a 95% concentration. We can do that, and we use those as our benchmarks for performance,” she says.

The next step is putting more demonstrations into the field. Nemser remains tight-lipped about timing and locations beyond saying Optiperm can be quickly deployed anywhere.

“We’re looking at a range of different applications in different industries, with the common denominator being that they all have flue gas streams,” she says. “Think of it like the furnace system in your house with a flue that releases the CO2 nitrogen mix out into the atmosphere.”

Carbon Capture Technology in Delaware

Nemser says Delaware is an excellent place for scientific research and development.

“We’re doing cutting-edge work in climate technology,” she says. “Delaware’s history in chemicals has created a baseline and core competency. We’ve seen the evolution to clean chemicals, and now we’re seeing chemicals as energy, hydrogen fuels, solar power, electrolysis, and a variety of other chemical-based technologies. Delaware has a lot to contribute to the future of chemistry being the future of energy and clean energy, and the talent here is second to none in developing this.”

When Nemser joined the company her father Stuart founded in 1993 after leaving DuPont, she started moving it from a domestic science-driven R&D lab to a global commercial organization that constantly generates new intellectual property.

“I thought [our future] would be in petrochemicals and then broadly in industry and carbon capture but probably 10 years later than we’re seeing now,” she says. “In many ways, we see an acceleration in the interest in carbon capture.”

Her father, Nemser says, “thinks it’s amazing that membranes are having their day in the sun. Dad’s vision was always that technologists needed to find a way to stop separations from being one of the largest energy hogs on the planet as they produce the products that we want and prevent them from creating the emissions profile that they now have.”

Nemser says that modular systems like the CMS membrane can be used in both large plants like you see dotting the American landscape as well as new greenfield applications, and even small installations as the world moves towards more decentralized processes and plants.

Nemser says she’s proud of what CMS has accomplished but concedes she always says, ‘let’s do it faster.’ I’m always looking ahead, not behind, at the next mountain to climb.”

“It’s one thing to prove it out in a chemical plant, but the whole point is how do we expand these use cases so that we’re really talking about the next generation of deployments in carbon capture,” she says.

Nemser says Braskem is only the launching point, adding it makes sense that a Delaware company is at the brink of innovation like this.

“The future of chemicals is energy and a clean planet,” she says. “It’s not where we were. It’s where we’re going.”

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Aqua Science Making a Global Splash

In just two years, the Newark, Delaware, water and soil testing company has sent ripples around the world


The growing need for stricter environmental compliance around the world – and a desire for a more progressive workplace culture – provided the perfect foundation for the creation of Newark, Delaware-based Aqua Science LLC.

The basis of Aqua Science’s business lies in water and soil toxicity testing using bioluminescent reagents that the company manufactures and sells, along with sales of their proprietary luminometer for use alongside its reagent products.

But owner and chief executive officer Iwona Evans notes that her background isn’t in science – environmental or otherwise. It’s in finance, with her undergraduate business degree from Goldey-Beacom College, her MBA from the University of Delaware and a second master’s from Goldey-Beacom in business and management. She was, however, putting those degrees to work for biotech companies and saw, in February 2020, an opportunity to start her own venture with a few fellow employees following along.

“It’s been really sort of unexpected with my finance background,” she said. “I had to learn a lot about science, but it’s been great.”

Aqua Science’s products use a bioluminescent bacteria native to the Pacific Ocean that, during the production process, are freeze-dried to allow for storage and transportation. By reconstituting the bacteria, customers essentially bring it back to life. The healthier the environment, the more light the bacteria give off. The luminometer measures the level of light emitted, gauging the level of toxicity by how much the light output diminishes.

Among the changes Evans and her team have made to the process were to create more stable bacteria, which was a significant improvement, particularly considering the pandemic’s effects on international shipping, she said.

“Shipping suddenly took a lot longer, and the product has to be frozen and shipped in a cooler, so the transit time cannot be too long,” she said. “Our scientists did some additional work, and we were able to make it more stable so the bacteria would survive a longer transit time.”

The new venture bore some similarity to what Evans’ team had been doing at their previous employer. “We saw really great opportunities in the market,” she said, “and we felt they were unfulfilled, that there were changes that could be made.”

Those changes happened fast, and after some initial research and development, the Aqua Science team had a product to market six months after starting the business and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because of the scientists we have here and their knowledge, our customers told us that really this is the best thing they’ve seen in 20 years,” Evans said. “We have the highest quality of bacteria reagents in the world now.”

In designing their new luminometer, the Aqua Science team’s goal was to take widely used but outdated technology and update it for the 21st century. “We thought we could use the cutting-edge technology that’s available right now to make this process easier and better and at the same time keep our environment – our water and soil – safer,” she said. Evans noted that her engineer husband, who doesn’t work for the company or in a related field, contributed to the design of “an incredibly simple and fully custom user interface” for the device. “It’s something I know he’s proud of, and we’re excited that we got his input.”

From its Newark headquarters, Aqua Science operates internationally. The company provides much of its product and technology to markets in Europe and Mexico, where environmental regulations are tighter than those in the U.S. and water and soil toxicity standards much more stringent.

“We see this technology as a great screening tool that could be used here in the U.S., and we really hope with our new luminometer coming out we’ll be able to reach customers in the U.S. who can use it to do a quick field test and be able to say, ‘Yes, there’s a problem,’ or ‘No, we’re good,’” Evans said. “For us, the passion is really the clean water and soil, so we would like to grow our R&D department and come up with new solutions to the problems not only here in Delaware but that people around the world are facing.”

Delaware Integral to Aqua Science’s Success

Delaware’s strong business foundation has been integral in Aqua Science’s success, she said, not just by providing a home base and a reservoir of talent, but also through direct support like grants and through organizations like Delaware Prosperity Partnership. The company won a Delaware Division of Small Business EDGE Grant in 2021, which Evans said was a crucial turning point in the company’s success.

“It really sort of brought the team together. Everybody was working on it, and we were all excited when we won,” she said. “It was a huge help, especially for a startup company during a pandemic.”

Additionally, the Small Business Development Center helped the firm get a grant for marketing and write a grant proposal for its PFAS project. In view of the environmental challenges being faced globally related to perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in soil and water, especially in the United States, Aqua Science will be developing a new technology to monitor these “forever chemicals.” PFAS are found in a wide array of manufactured chemicals used in the creation of nonstick coatings, stain-resistant carpets and firefighting foam, among many others, and are detrimental to human health.

Other help came from Export Delaware, which provided assistance working with trade missions to promote Aqua Science’s products globally. As she’s built the company, Evans has benefitted from an almost entirely female team, a marked departure from her other workplaces.

“It’s very important and refreshing at the same time because in my previous career it was exactly the room full of men and I was the only woman, and it wasn’t always the greatest experience,” she said. “This is different, and I like it. I think it’s a different way of thinking.”

Currently, the Aqua Science team of six includes Evans, a native of Poland, and two women who are first-generation immigrants from India and Colombia. This also adds strength to the company, she said.

“To me it’s such a valuable thing having a diverse workforce,” she said. “It’s that the ideas are coming from different perspectives, it’s the different ways we look at problems. It’s really beneficial to the business.”

The team’s structure also allows Aqua Science to break free from old-fashioned corporate practices less suited for both a 21st century and pandemic-era workplace, she said.

“We spend a lot of time at work, and we all have families, we have lives. And one thing I will always tell employees is family comes first,” Evans said. “If something’s going on at home, let me know, take some time, we’ll figure it out. Take care of whatever you need to take care of. And this is something that my employees have expressed many times, that it’s so nice to come to work not having to worry if something happens.”

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