September 16, 2016.: Dave Stenson hit the entrepreneurial jackpot Friday afternoon.
The founder and CEO of Inventev LLC, a TechTown Detroit tenant, got to make a half-hour slide presentation of his technology and market opportunity to Ernest Moniz, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Stenson's presentation came less than three weeks after he applied to the DOE for a $4.5 million grant to help fund a proposed project he is calling the Detroit Advanced Vehicle Integration Center, which would help him take his company to market and serve as a home for software developers and other startups breaking into the automotive market.
Inventev is in the prototype stage and wants to sell after-market transmissions and battery packs to provide work trucks with job-site energy generation.
The DOE is expected to announce whether it has approved the proposal next spring.
"I heard the secretary was coming a month ago. I feel blessed, if you want to use the word, for the chance to explain the concept and tell him about our team," said Stenson, who formerly was the executive director of General Motors Co.'s performance division and chief technical officer with Hummer.
Moniz was in town for the day for a series of meetings and events. In the morning, he attended the groundbreaking for a 10-acre solar-array project DTE Energy is building on a 10-acre parcel of land in Detroit, at the site of the former O'Shea Park near I-96 and Greenfield Road.
Then came a clean-energy roundtable discussion at NextEnergy, a closed-to-the-media meeting that was attended by about 20, including representatives of the city, utility companies and private businesses to discuss projects and issues of the day.
Moniz then was given a tour of what NextEnergy bills as the NextHome, a small model house built in the parking lot that serves as a test bed for various projects, including one by Nextek Power Systems, a NextEnergy tenant that installs direct-current power systems in homes and businesses, to replace more expensive alternative-current systems.
Then came the meeting with Stenson in NextEnergy's lobby.
Moniz said he wanted to meet with Stenson because of the DOE's ARPA-E program, or Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which was modeled after the Department of Defense's DARPA program for high-risk, high-reward research.
In January, Inventev received an ARPA-E grant of $500,000 to help commercialize its technology, which was awarded its first patent in April. That grant came with a $50,000 matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and $200,000 in in-kind contributions from various businesses and partners.
"Through 2015, about 200 ARPA-E projects had been completed, all with a tech-to-market component. Of those, 36 companies were formed and 10 products are on the market," Moniz said. "In this business, that's a good record."
At 2:30 p.m., Moniz and his staff left NextEnergy for a visit to the Ford Rouge plant.
"They're going to let me drive an F-150 aluminum truck," Moniz said. "That ought to be interesting, since I haven't driven in a couple years."