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.”


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!”


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


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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.”


 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.


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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Agilent Technologies Expands in Delaware

Agilent Technologies Chooses Delaware for $7 Million Investment

May 24, 2022

(WILMINGTON, Del.) – Agilent Technologies Inc., a global analytical instrumentation development, life sciences and manufacturing company and one of Delaware’s largest private-sector employers, has chosen to modernize and expand its existing Little Falls office and lab campus in response to growing worldwide demand for the company’s analytical laboratory consumables products.

Agilent plans to invest more than $7 million to upgrade the functionality of its Little Falls R&D and applications development labs at the three-level, 354,000-square-foot Wilmington-area site. The company’s investment will go toward the complete redesign, demolition, construction and outfitting of the existing laboratories.

“We are excited for Agilent Technologies’ expansion and modernization of their lab space, bringing new jobs to their facilities in New Castle County,” said Governor John Carney. “Delaware has a long tradition of expertise in the field of chemistry. This investment shows that Delaware remains a leader in innovative development.” 

Agilent – a world leader in the life sciences, diagnostics and applied chemical markets – has been a vital part of Delaware’s economy for more than 20 years. The company’s decision to update its existing facility reflects its confidence in Delaware’s dynamic business environment and large pool of regional talent. 

Agilent currently employs more than 800 workers at Little Falls, located in unincorporated New Castle County, and additional employees at its manufacturing location in Newport. The Little Falls renovation and expansion will result in the company further expanding its workforce amid strong demand for its biopharmaceutical laboratory consumables. 

“This another great example of investment in New Castle County where businesses have the access to talent and an incredible life sciences ecosystem,” said County Executive Matt Meyer. “We applaud Agilent Technologies on its commitment to New Castle County and the job creation that will result.”

Agilent officials presented today to Delaware’s Council on Development Finance their application for a Jobs Performance Grant of $93,330 and a Capital Expenditures Grant of $210,000 from the Delaware Strategic Fund to supplement the company’s $7 million investment. Distribution of grants from the Delaware Strategic Fund are dependent on the company meeting commitments as outlined to the CDF, which reviewed and approved Agilent’s request for up to $303,330 in total grant funding. 

“Agilent has a long and successful history in the State of Delaware, and this investment in our laboratories will enable world-class R&D for the fast-growing biopharma market, while expanding and supporting our Delaware-based team,” said John Gavenonis, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s Chemistries and Supplies Division. “Delaware is the right place for this R&D investment.” 


 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 Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is a global leader in the life sciences, diagnostics, and applied chemical markets, delivering insight and innovation that advance the quality of life. Agilent’s full range of solutions includes instruments, software, services, and expertise that provide trusted answers to our customers’ most challenging questions. The company generated revenue of $6.32 billion in fiscal 2021 and employs 17,000 people worldwide. Information about Agilent is available at agilent.com. To receive the latest Agilent news, subscribe to the Agilent Newsroom. Follow Agilent on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook.

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Delaware Dives Deep into the Blue Economy

Delaware is diving into the deep end of the Blue Economy, which focuses on all the economic activities related to the coastal and marine environment. This includes everything from transportation and shipping goods to aquaculture, fisheries, offshore wind and mineral resources.

Delaware also is quickly joining the East Coast BlueTech cluster network, which includes Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Maine. BlueTech is a tech innovation focus area that is rapidly growing, attracting new investments and advancing innovations in the Blue Economy and national security.

Delaware has a key advantage the other blue cluster states do not have: offering significantly lower operating costs and an easier path to overcome security, permitting and access requirements for these projects, said Dr. Arthur Trembanis and Rob Nicholson, key personnel helping Delaware advance BlueTech initiatives.

Trembanis is a professor of oceanography and geology at the University of Delaware and deputy director of UD’s Center for Autonomous and Robotic Systems (CARS). He “develops and chases autonomous system robots around the environment.” Nicholson’s background is meteorology and oceanography (METOC) in the U.S. Navy. He’s been involved in business development and technology development throughout his career, and his current Naval Reserves assignment is with the 10th Fleet Cyber Command/Navy Space Command, where he serves as Staff METOC Officer and provides training and operational integration support to U.S. Space Command.

The linchpin for the state’s efforts can be found downstate at UD’s Lewes Campus, home to the Robotics Discovery Lab (RDL), one of the most advanced marine-robotics labs in the country. A sea-grant university since 1976, UD has a rich legacy of marine research and exploration through its College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE).

“We’re trying to leverage resources like the RDL and CARS, which is a universitywide robotics initiative that includes master’s degrees in robotics for professional-level training,” Trembanis said. “We have developed credentialing classes you can take through professional continuing studies. For example, you can come take a continuing studies class to become a drone pilot.”

Blue Economy in Delaware

Delaware’s role as a major player in the Blue Economy depend on continued engagement between academia, industry, state and federal agencies, and military groups.

“I think Delaware is a great place to come and conduct testing and evaluation (T&E) with innovative BlueTech systems that have a role in supporting the growing Blue Economy because we offer our unique geographic and oceanographic positioning,” Trembanis said. “We have an estuary system and salt marshes, so we can study areas where there’s fresh water mixing with salt water. We have coastal waters, the Mid-Atlantic. We also have our Inland Bays areas and salt marshes. We’re the lowest-lying elevation state in the nation, which allows us to address key issues around climate change, sea-level rise and coastal resilience. We’re at one with the bays and the ocean, and we are punching well above our weight with what we can offer groups wishing to develop and test new technologies.

“The holy grail is we want to improve the economy while we improve our understanding and stewardship of the planet.”

These efforts have been enhanced by the launch in early 2021 of the Ratcliffe Eco-Entrepreneurship Fellows (REEF) Program at the University of Delaware, led by Dr. David Lawson. REEF provides students with tuition support and stipends to pursue ideas for entrepreneurial, commercial solutions to environmental problems. It’s a partnership between the University’s CEOE and Horn Entrepreneurship programs and supported by the Ratcliffe Foundation.

“I think the REEF Program was a real first flag in the ground,” Nicholson said. “Dr. Lawson did not rely solely on the university or the state. He came from Procter & Gamble and retired here with a wealth of knowledge and experience in Open Innovation best practices. He asked if we were doing anything with innovation, and the answer was, ‘Well, kind of, not really, I don’t know.’ He worked across the university system and landed a large grant to stand up that innovation and entrepreneurship program. It allowed us to leverage the successes there and build something around.”

According to Nicholson, innovation entrepreneurship typically is an afterthought. Leading with that, he says, was a clever approach.

“What REEF has done is provide a home and inspiration for students who are environmental scientists or engineers, environmentally minded with an entrepreneurial mindset,” Trembanis added. “For many years, if students said they wanted to form a company, for example, to help address microplastics in the bay or develop sustainable fisheries, you’d have to tell them to take a biology class and then go over to the business school. Now we can tell them we have an outlet where they can develop their entrepreneurial skills and the program has an ecosystem of resources, services and funding to help scale those new ventures.”

Along with a Navy Educational Partnership Agreement, UD has signed partnership and internship agreements with Ocean Infinity America, the Navy Surface Warfare Center and the U.S. Naval Academy. It also has a track record with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard. A Congressionally Directed Funding proposal for a Blue Economy Tech Center also has been approved.

Delaware is also leading development of an NSF Engineering Research Center proposal, which would be a 10-year program that includes the University of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, University of Pennsylvania, Delaware State University, University of South Carolina, University of Puerto Rico and a host of commercial partners focused on developing autonomous systems (environmental robots) and sensors and platforms to address coastal resiliency, to better understand the impact that sea-level rise or a hurricane or Nor’easter would have on our coastline.

“Part of laying the groundwork for this is bringing people in for campus visits,” Trembanis said. “People come in, they see the lab, they see the environment, and they say, ‘Oh, you’ve got these ships, you’ve got these researchers, you’ve got all this activity going on. I didn’t realize this was going on here at Delaware.’”

Both Nicholson and Trembanis believe Delaware is well-positioned from both an innovation perspective and an economic development and workforce development perspective.

“It’s a day trip for a lot of folks who are scientists, engineers and leadership in the D.C. area, as opposed to going all the way to Rhode Island or Norfolk,” Nicholson said. “But more than that, think about all the jobs when it comes to the 14 wind farms that have already been approved. With all the turbines that are going up, there’s going to be a need for service companies to evaluate, inspect and maintain these turbines. “

Ocean robotics offer multiple uses for data collection, surveillance and inspection capabilities that cut across traditional industries like oil and gas, offshore wind and fisheries. This is unique that these BlueTech systems can serve several industry sectors.

“Ocean robotics are a ‘tractor’ with multiple missions – (environmental DNA) sampling, which is environmental collection for aquaculture locations,” Nicholson said. “You can use them one day to sniff out some nutrients and check on the health of the fish and make sure there’s not contaminate buildups and things like that. And then you can re-mission that same platform, depending on the sensor suites, to do a coastline survey right before a hurricane hits, and then you can transition the next week to do post-storm wind-turbine inspections – all with a very similar system and setup.”

There are a lot of benefits to the Lewes Campus being the “Triple-A ballfield,” as Nicholson describes it.

“That’s evident in some of the work that the RDL team has conducted with some of the larger federal contractors and some of the proposed work ahead of us with the Navy and some of the other DOD partners,” he said. “Not surprisingly, there’s a little bit of expected congestion around some of these Blue Economy participants in understanding how they interact with each other and how they work together or minimize the impact of the work that they’re independently doing in and around a more robust ecosystem of maritime activities.”

Pharmaceutical and fintech operations, regardless of whether big blue chip or a small company, know they can quickly come in and plug in to Delaware. Trembanis and Nicholson agreed that they’re starting to see more Blue Economy companies take up residence in the state or “beat on our door” to come in and do testing and research and development.

Nicholson believes that Delaware will be considered part of the BlueTech cluster network within the next two years. He said they’re actively engaging with key players in the industry that can help make it happen.

“A BlueTech cluster isn’t just cool robots. It’s a diverse economic ecosystem,” he said. “It’s got a little bit of offshore wind, it’s got some academia, it’s got some industry partners, it’s got some federal partners, it’s got some engineering, and it’s got a little oceanography. We have the ingredients. I think we just need to get it into a big pot and really start to cook it.”

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Creating Planet-Friendly Anticorrosives

Sumedh Surwade could have launched his chemical startup SAS Nanotechnologies anywhere, including his native India. He chose Delaware.

When Sumedh Surwade was growing up in India, he rarely left his hometown of Mumbai. But since moving to the United States, he’s lived in multiple places, including Texas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Tennessee. Delaware, however, has been his most extended U.S. address.

“I’ve been here for five years now, and I’m just loving it,” says the Newark resident. Indeed, Surwade likes Delaware so much that in 2017, he founded SAS Nanotechnologies in Wilmington’s Stanton area. SAS stands for “Smart, Advanced, Sustainable.”

The chemical startup is currently developing smart microcapsule technology for various applications, including anticorrosive coatings and biocides.

Delaware’s status as a science-driven hub has made the state an ideal location for the business. But, as he’s learned, there are plenty of other advantages.

Discovering Delaware

Surwade’s route to Delaware started on another continent. As a child, he excelled at math and science, but it wasn’t until he was in middle school that science became a passion. “School projects, such as building a solar farm, got me really excited,” he says.

After earning a bachelor’s degree at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, he headed to the United States, where he earned a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Texas in Dallas. He then earned a doctorate in chemistry and polymer science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and followed that with postdoctoral work at the University of Pittsburgh.

Initially, the young scientist pictured his future as a university research group leader. But while at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville, Tennessee, he decided to forgo academia and dip his toe into the industry.

In 2015, Surwade took a job at FujiFilm Imaging in New Castle, Delaware, where he developed inks and formulations for inkjet printing applications. At the time, he knew little about the state except the little that he’d gleaned from friends who were University of Delaware graduates. That would soon change.

An Inborn Entrepreneur

While working for Fuji, the innovative chemist grew restless. He had so many product ideas with the potential for commercial applications. Chief among them was a polymer that could inhibit corrosion on heavy metal in structures such as vehicles, bridges and industrial machinery.

He felt the timing was right. “Maybe I should be adventurous early in my career as opposed to later on,” he told himself. “Maybe doing something on my own would be more fun.”

In October 2016, Surwade secured lab space in the Delaware Technology Park, where he worked nights and weekends on his research. By the following fall, he was full-time with SAS Nanotechnologies. While developing the product, he still turns to the University of Delaware for specialty equipment that would be too expensive for him to purchase.

Surwade’s technology focuses on environmentally friendly microcapsules that gradually release an agent to heal damaged areas, such as scratches on metal. The agent can also be intentionally triggered. Similarly, these microcapsules could attack the fungus, mold or bacteria that damage materials such as roofs.

Surwade wasn’t the only one to see the advantages. With the Small Business Development Center’s help, he won a $225,000 National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant and the Emerging Enterprise Center’s Swim with the Sharks Pitch Competition. And those awards were just the beginning for the chemical startup.

Why Delaware?

The funding has been encouraging, but Surwade also has been inspired by the people he has met in Delaware. This includes members of the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA).

“They had so many small workshops and meetings with former DuPont employees — high-level managers and executives,” he recalls. “They were sitting with me and listening to my ideas. It motivated me. Folks here are willing to help you.”

Delaware is known for being a state where it’s easy to network and discover resources. “You always can find someone who knows a key contact at a company,” Surwade agrees.

Since starting SAS Nanotechnologies, Surwade has watched as even more labs, accelerator programs, forums and resources have become available to startups like his.

“It’s a good time for a chemical startup to come to Delaware,” he says. “It’s an exciting time.”

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BioCurie Finds Delaware Ideal for Innovation

Biocurie Aims to Help Biopharmaceutical Companies Get Ingredient Combinations ‘Right The First Time’

Software Startup Finds Delaware Ideal Location for Innovative Business to Thrive

Each year, prior to March Madness or the Super Bowl, data-analytics companies run thousands of simulations and predict which team is most likely to win. Imagine facing a complex business decision where the wrong choice could cost you millions and being able to do something similar with thousands if not millions of data simulations and identify the best option based on that data.

BioCurie, a Wilmington, Delaware-based software startup, is offering biopharmaceutical companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars and several years developing each cell and gene therapy the ability to “get it right the first time.”

“There are so many variables between ingredients, the order you put them in and the equipment settings. If you tried every permutation, it would be a total crapshoot,” says BioCurie co-founder Irene Rombel, Ph.D., MBA. “You’d never be able to do all the experiments needed to get the optimal solution.”

Rombel says BioCurie’s software “can predict the best process for manufacturing a cell and gene therapy, the ideal recipe for making high-quality product most efficiently and most cost-effectively every time. The bottom of the ‘knowledge pyramid’ is all trial-and-error machine learning where you put in data and it crunches. But when you try to apply that approach to biological problems, inevitably those models underperform because the biology is so nuanced and complex.”

BioCurie was founded in May 2021 by Rombel, a life science industry veteran whose experience spans academia, investing, consulting and the biopharma industry. Co-founder Richard Braatz, Ph.D., a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is a world leader in AI, data analytics and modeling for process development and biomanufacturing. They were joined by an impressive advisory board that includes CompassRed founder Patrick Callahan.

Rombel and Braatz had a chance meeting at a National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing (NIIMBL) conference in July 2021. After a visit to MIT to investigate further, Rombel called Callahan to tell him Braatz was the perfect person to help transform the paradigm of development and manufacturing from an inefficient, labor-intensive and unpredictable state to a data-driven, intelligent and robust state that will enable faster, less costly delivery of safe and effective gene and cell therapies.

“I was involved early on with Irene and think the problem she is focused on is spot-on, transformable and has real potential to change the trajectory of the manufacturing of cell and gene therapies,” says Callahan. “Using the advances in AI on this problem is largely ignored and believe it has huge potential.”

According to Rombel, companies often must wait two or more years to get a slot at a manufacturer.

“Which is ridiculous because patients and shareholders are waiting,” she says. “And every time you have a batch failure or you miss, it’s millions of dollars and several months down the drain. Literally. Our software helps companies de-risk both from a regulatory standpoint and an execution standpoint.”

BioCurie, Rombel says, has created a “scalable model factory” that will use the cloud (SaaS) to send out its optimum “recipes” to client sites all over the world so they can faithfully reproduce the process from Site A to Site B. This will allow BioCurie to provide continuous innovation.

“You want to be able to figure out how to make these life-saving safely, swiftly and at an acceptable cost of goods,” Rombel says. “Figuring out the recipe for a cell and gene therapy is called ‘development.’ Once you have that recipe figured out, actually producing it is called ‘biomanufacturing.’ Our software addresses both parts of that value chain. The status quo today is empirical brute force – basically hit or miss with a lot of misses. And we’re the only company focused on the development and manufacturing part of the equation.”

Rombel said she founded BioCurie in Delaware because Delaware’s business-friendly environment and proximity to biopharma companies make it an ideal place for innovative businesses to thrive.

“We have NIIMBL here,” she says. “North of us in Philadelphia, we have ‘Cellicon Valley’ and the Greater Philadelphia region with all the cell and gene therapy companies. We’ve got all the big pharma just north in New Jersey. The contract manufacturers in cell and gene therapy are in Maryland. We also collaborate with the University of Delaware through one of its grant programs.”

Rombel is a Delaware resident with 20-plus years of relevant experience spanning big pharma (Janssen Pharmaceuticals, J&J), biotech (Spark Therapeutics, a gene therapy leader), consulting (founded Biomedical Intelligence, a life science consulting company), investing (public and private equities) and academia (focused on gene regulation). She’s a first-generation New Zealander, the daughter of Polish immigrants. When Poland was invaded in 1939, her father’s family was shipped off in a cattle car to a Siberian prison camp before they were taken in as refugees by New Zealand.

Evidence of the importance her parents placed on education can be found on two bookshelves of encyclopedias in her home office. Her parents bought them for her when she was 12, even though they were a working-class family and did not even own a car. Around the same time, she was inspired by the Polish Nobel laureate, Marie Curie, to pursue her passion for science.

Since then, she has earned a doctorate in biochemistry and completed stints as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and UC Davis. She also earned an MBA from Southern Methodist University while serving as a faculty member at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Innovative Biopharma Companies Excel in Delaware

BioCurie has four customer targets for its “new product category”: biopharma companies, contract development and manufacturing, hospitals and academic institutions. Rombel believes “validation through partnerships” will help BioCurie acquire venture capital funding.

“We’ve also applied for an EDGE grant from the State,” she says. “That would be a great win because it would show that Delaware values us and our presence here.”

CompassRed’s Callahan says having a woman-led science and technology success that could grow this industry from the ground would be transformative for Delaware’s innovation community.

“As someone who’s been an entrepreneur in Delaware for most of my life, I would love to see her succeed here as I have,” Callahan says. “With NIIMBL here, there could be a great story that develops that reminds me of the very beginning days of DuPont, Gore and all the other leaders that believed and succeeded.”

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Startup302 Applications Now Due 2/27

Underrepresented Founders of Early-Stage, Tech-Enabled Companies Competing for More Than $180k in 2022 Startup302 Funding Contest

Startup302 funding competition for underrepresented founders

Deadline to Enter Community-Led Competition, Which Also Provides Mentoring and Networking Connections to Winners, Extended to Feb. 27

WILMINGTON, Del.  — Delaware’s second annual community-led Startup302 funding competition is accepting applications from underrepresented founders with early-stage, technology-enabled ventures through Feb. 27. Focusing on underrepresented founders with a goal of tackling funding inequities and strengthening the regional startup community, the contest is offering more than $180,000 in grant prizes to winners along with mentoring and valuable networking connections such as introductions to potential investors.

According to Noah Olson, director of Innovation at Startup302 organizer and sponsor Delaware Prosperity Partnership (DPP), tech-enabled startups with at least one founding team member from an underrepresented group may apply. The competition’s prize categories reflect Delaware’s innovation and industry landscape, he said, so life sciences (including agriculture), chemistry and advanced materials and more broadly tech (including fintech, AI/ML, big data, SaaS, e-sports) ventures are especially encouraged to apply.

“As we’ve seen with the success of last year’s competition and the impact on the winning companies, innovation thrives when diverse perspectives are fostered and included,” Olson said. “Startup302 aims to improve access and equity across the First State’s innovation ecosystem and beyond.”

Garry Johnson III, founder of First Founders Accelerator and chair of the Startup 302 Steering Committee, agreed.

“Delaware has a unique opportunity to position itself as a leader of inclusive and equitable innovation,” Johnson said, “and I’m excited to contribute to collaborative efforts like these that attract diverse communities of founders to the region.”

Within the startup venture capital community, underrepresented founders are those in whom the venture capital industry, as a whole, underinvests relative to their demographic’s percent of overall United States population. Underrepresented founders include women, as well as people of color, including African Americans, Latin Americans and those of Native American descent.

Under Johnson’s leadership, the Startup302 Steering Committee includes representatives from key Delaware innovation-supporting organizations. These include DPP, University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship, the Delaware Sustainable Chemistry Alliance (DESCA), the Delaware State University College of Business, the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Emerging Enterprise Center (EEC) and the Delaware Innovation Space.

“DESCA is thrilled to be a part of this intentional effort to grow a diverse and inclusive startup community,” said DESCA Executive Director Dora Cheatham. “This type of resource collaboration is vital to building a thriving innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Dan Freeman, founding director of Horn Entrepreneurship, said, “Horn Entrepreneurship is honored to support Startup302, which provides great opportunities for founders to make connections, receive guidance, raise visibility, gain credibility and win prize funding – all of which can help to build traction and increase the likelihood of new venture success.”

Lillie Crawford, director of the Delaware Center for Enterprise Development (DCED) at DSU’s College of Business, added that “DCED is delighted to be a part of Startup302. DCED has a history of supporting minority-owned businesses from underserved communities and values the Startup302 commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship specifically targeting underrepresented founders.”

Alysse Bortolotto, director of Economic Development and Business Incubation at the EEC stated, “The EEC is honored to be a part of a program that is creating a more fertile entrepreneurial ecosystem by tackling funding inequities and gaps that will lead to greater innovation, diversity and opportunity.”

There is no cost to enter, thanks to sponsorship by the State of Delaware and other support. Current Startup302 sponsors also include DPP, First Founders, Horn Entrepreneurship, DSU College of Business, Delaware Innovation Space, the Delaware Division of Small Business, the Office of New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, Discover Bank, FMC, Labware, Highmark Delaware, DuPont, ChristianaCare and the Delaware BioScience Association.

The competition finals will take place virtually in May. For further details and to apply, visit startup302.org. Questions may be addressed to Olson at nolson@choosedelaware.com or 302-576-6589.


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 private employers in identifying, recruiting, and developing talent. 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.

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Tapp Network Helps Organizations Stay Relevant Through Digital Resiliency

Tapp Network Helps Organizations Catch Up, Stay Relevant Through Digital Resiliency

delaware digital agency tapp network

One of the world’s leading digital-marketing transformation agencies calls Delaware home. Tapp Network develops innovative digital tools and campaigns for some of the world’s leading corporations and then transfers that knowledge to local nonprofits and state agencies to make the world a better place.

“Tapp stands at the intersection of technology, purpose and passion,” says Tapp Network co-founder Joe DiGiovanni, who opened the agency in 2013 with developer Kyle Barkins to fill the void in Delaware for a full-service mar-tech agency while serving their international clients. 

Wilmington-based Tapp, which works out of CSC Station adjacent to the city’s Amtrak station and The Mill, is gaining a lot of traction in its home state. DiGiovanni, who graduated from the University of Delaware in 1989 with a degree in biology, says he and Barkins love the work environment in Wilmington and are eager to give back to the community. 

“Kyle and I originally came together to build a website for one local client, Tech Impact, and then launched Zip Code Wilmington’s website,” DiGiovanni says. “We were then invited to be the keynote speakers at all three Nonprofit Tech Week events in California – including one at Microsoft’s headquarters. Hundreds of nonprofit attendees swarmed us seeking help. Their websites weren’t mobile responsive and lacked the modern tools and technology necessary for digital fundraising, e-commerce, and communications. That’s when we realized there was a huge opportunity in the social sector.”

Flash forward to the current COVID universe, where corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits are all playing catch-up to instill the digital resiliency needed to remain relevant and competitive.

“That’s where our strengths are,” DiGiovanni says. 

Tapp is helping position Wilmington as a digital infrastructure hub. From clean energy to electric vehicles and from AI to fintech, workforce development and healthcare, Tapp is attracting top talent to Delaware to serve their clients representing some of the world’s fastest-growing corporations and economic sectors. Denso-Japan, Microsoft, Iteris, Hubspot, Athena-Healthcare, Nonstop Wellness, CSC Global, Solomon Energy, Juice Bar EV Charging Stations and Google are just a few of the international companies seeking Tapp’s software development expertise and digital marketing services.

Tapp also leads the global digital infrastructure wave in the nonprofit sector. Tapp recently formed an exclusive alliance with Tech Soup Global, a nonprofit international network of non-governmental organizations serving 80% of all nonprofits worldwide. Tech Soup Global provides technical support and technological tools to other nonprofits, working with 1 million nonprofits in 200 countries.

“First, they were a client,” DiGiovanni says. “Now, we’re the exclusive provider to all of their clients worldwide for website development and digital communication services. If you go to TechSoup and you need software, boom, that’s Microsoft. If you need a website built, we’re the ones that do that, white labeled through Tech Soup, Tapp services more than 200 new clients a year just from that partnership alone.” 

Tapp also works with Tech Soup’s Digital Resiliency Fund, where large corporations like Truist and Google give million-dollar grants to help smaller nonprofits become digitally resilient. “We’ve built the platform process and program to help organizations identify and resolve their needs,” DiGiovanni says.  

On the civil sector side, TAPP collaborates with government agencies on their digital infrastructure and communications needs. “We’re looking to take the Digital Resiliency Program we built for Tech Soup and offer it here in Delaware, not just for nonprofits but for small and minority-owned businesses,” DiGiovanni says. “I think it could be transformational for the state.” 

As an approved state vendor for digital communications, Tapp is preparing to roll out two big marketing campaigns for the Delaware Division of Public Health and the Department of Education’s Pathways program that represent a whole-new omnichannel approach to communications within the state.

“Many states – outside Delaware – historically rely on traditional banner ads, billboards, and social media, often in silos” DiGiovanni says. “We’re bringing artificial intelligence, personalization and data-driven communications to the table to connect the dots and drive measurable impact and positive behavior change. Other states are reaching out as well. Tapp is actively involved in launching a 2.0 version of United Way’s 211 system for the state of Pennsylvania and a learning management system for the State of California and partnering with Microsoft on a COVID-screening platform for students and teachers for the State of New Jersey. Locally, Tapp leads and manages the Its Time Wilmington and Wilm Today tourism campaign, which reached over two billion people in 2021.”

Tapp also was a big part of the state’s census efforts, which were hampered in many states by COVID.

“We were fortunate enough to put the digital tools in place before COVID hit, and that really is what saved it,” DiGiovanni says. “If you look at a lot of nonprofits and the funding that’s going into a lot of these grants around digital resiliency, nonprofits and government agencies need the capacity to communicate digitally, whether it’s fundraising online, email marketing or anything social. We didn’t know COVID was coming, of course, but establishing the digital infrastructure for the census really helped all the communications. If the public-private-social institutions aren’t tied together digitally, things will fall apart. So that’s what helped that work. Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long had the foresight to support us in putting those platforms in place, and it paid off.”

The COVID pandemic has changed Tapp’s approach both internally and with clients.

“I think the ability to collaborate virtually is one of the biggest differences – it helped transform the way we operate as a company,” DiGiovanni says. “A lot of our corporate clients have had to change their business models to focus more on marketing, sales and revenue operations. For nonprofits, it’s the fundraising, virtual events and collaboration tools. How do you communicate with your communities digitally? I think COVID really forced what needed to happen anyway, at least in the nonprofit space.”

For many business owners, there’s what you do and then what gives you joy. For DiGiovanni, the joy comes when people tap into their passion and purpose. “It’s when a client sees the light, when they can do what they’ve always dreamed,” he says. “It’s transferring the innovation from our large business-sector clients to the nonprofit and government sectors that really make us happy. Because if you’re an executive director of a startup nonprofit and it’s just one person, you can completely transform what they’re doing overnight.” 

If he had “a pebble in his shoe” about his work, DiGiovanni would say it was the “bureaucracy and red tape nationally from a government standpoint, in terms of thinking outside the box and being creative.”

His suggestion? Be more like Delaware.

“I think that government agencies really need to embrace digital infrastructure and transformation,” he says. “It’s exciting to see Delaware is ahead of the curve and is trying to get that message across.”

Joe DiGiovanni, Tapp Network

Joe DiGiovanni traveled an interesting path to becoming the co-founder of one of the world’s leading digital-transformation agencies. Following his graduation from the University of Delaware in 1989 with a degree in biology, Joe briefly worked in research and development before moving on to marketing medical equipment to hospitals, becoming one of the early users of digital communications and search optimization.

delaware digital agency tapp network

What’s your personal elevator speech?

I lead a balanced life. I’m a yoga instructor. I founded the Nicaragua Yoga Institute. I just started playing pickle ball. It’s important to do what you’re passionate about. And if you can enable people that work for you to have that same freedom to grow, you’ll make work and the world a better place.

What’s the question you wish more people would ask themselves?

What is my intention? If you ask that when you make decisions, you can choose the right path and pivot along the way.

You have one giant billboard. Where do you put it and what does it say?

I would put it in Times Square, and it would say, “Be Grateful.”

Best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

It was from my neighbor, who was a film professor at UD, quoting Steven King: “Write with the door closed. Rewrite with the door open.”

What advice would you give your younger self today?

My daughter is 24, and the advice I’m giving her is to continue to educate yourself. It’s not just about what college you went to. Sometimes that’s one of the last things we look at when we interview people. It’s really about their experience and ability to teach yourself, especially now that there are so many tools to do it online. There are so many opportunities now that weren’t around when we were younger. People can start their own businesses, consult, work for companies and set their own course.

Name a couple of books that have inspired you, that you recommend to others or that you gift.

I just got a copy of “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy. It’s a quick 30-minute read and will be my holiday gift for everyone in my family. “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” really helped me learn to focus on detail. “Writing to the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg helped me think about creative writing and opening up the creative side of my mind. I’ve been reading a lot of Ryan Holliday, particularly the “Daily Stoic,” and Robert Greene’s “Mastery” is a good book for business and personal growth.

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