The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $2 million to Picasolar Inc. to advance a pilot manufacturing program for solar cell technology developed at the University of Arkansas.
The SunShot Tier 2 Incubator Award will be matched with $2 million from Picasolar. The award is the result of the company’s patent-pending hydrogen super emitter process to increase the efficiency of solar cells and could ultimately lead to new high-tech manufacturing jobs in Northwest Arkansas.
Picasolar Inc. is a start-up company founded by a U of A graduate and is affiliated with the Arkansas Research and Technology Park, an innovation hub that works in association with the U of A to commercialize emerging technologies.
The firm’s business plan was honed in the New Venture Development graduate course in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Picasolar competed as a graduate business plan team in 2013, winning more than $300,000 the same year it started operations at the research park.
The SunShot awards are the most prestigious and competitive grants a solar start-up company can receive, said Douglas Hutchings, Picasolar’s founder and chief executive officer.
“We are very pleased to receive the continuation of funding from the SunShot Incubator Program,” Hutchings said. “The SunShot program is phenomenal. In addition to the financial support, we get to work with world-class scientists at Department of Energy national labs for third-party validation and technical expertise.”
In 2014, Picasolar raised $1.2 million in equity investments on top of receiving an $800,000 SunShot Initiative award through the Department of Energy. Last year, the super emitter was recognized with a prestigious 2015 Edison Award. The Edison Awards, inspired by Thomas Edison’s persistence and inventiveness, recognize innovation, creativity and ingenuity in the global economy.