Startups with Texas Engineering Roots Raise New Funding

June 25, 2021
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A pair of startups powered by technology created in labs at the Cockrell School of Engineering have raised fresh rounds of funding to continue their growth.

The rounds for EnergyX and Harmonic Bionics are the latest examples of startups with ties to Texas Engineering gaining momentum. The deals come on the heels of an alliance between hydrogen startup Celadyne and energy giant Shell.

Cockrell School faculty members and researchers are responsible for a large percentage of companies spun out of research at The University of Texas at Austin. And the deals for EnergyX and Harmonic Bionics show that the trend has no signs of slowing down.

“These two startups are the perfect embodiment of the spirit of innovation at the Cockrell School,” said Van N. Truskett, executive director of the Texas Innovation Center, a hub within the Cockrell School for commercializing engineering and scientific research. “We are excited to continue to watch and support these companies as they grow and fulfill their missions.”

Here is a look at the companies and some details of the investments.

EnergyX

What the Company Does: Develops new technologies for extracting lithium for battery production. The company makes membranes that make the lithium extraction process more efficient, which could decrease costs of producing batteries. The startup is also working on solid state electrolyte battery solutions.

The Founders: Founder and CEO Teague Egan is a serial entrepreneur, and investor in public sector energy since 2013. He is also the inventor of energyDNA — a graphene-based textile fiber technology. Benny Freeman, a professor in the Cockrell School’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, is chairman of the company’s science advisory board. Membrane extraction technology developed in Freeman’s lab is the backbone of EnergyX’s quest to improve lithium production.  

The Deal: A $20 million Series A round. The company’s new partners and strategic investors include Obsidian Acquisition Partners, Helios Capital and UT Austin.

Additional Momentum: Inked a partnership in October 2020 with lithium chemicals producer Orocobre to test lithium-enriched brine to help move toward full commercialization in 2022 or 2023; teaming up with John Goodenough, the inventor of the lithium-ion battery, Nobel Prize winner and professor in the Cockrell School, to re-think energy storage through research and development of solid-state batteries.

Harmonic Bionics

What the Company Does: Maker of rehabilitation technology for people with neurological and musculoskeletal impairments. The company’s primary product, Harmony SHR, is an upper-body exoskeleton with two robotic arms that is equipped with sensors to help patients increase mobility while taking precise measurements.

The Founders: The company was formed to commercialize the research of Ashish Deshpande, an associate professor in the Cockrell School’s Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. Deshpande is now the clinical research officer for the company, and Youngmok Yuk, who studied in Deshpande’s lab, is the chief technology officer and chief operating officer. In 2019, the company brought in Christopher Prentice, a 20-year veteran of the medical device market to be CEO. He most recently led Mazor Robotics, an Israeli company that makes a robotic guidance system for spine surgery.

The Deal: A $7 million Series A round led by KNet Investment Partners and Big Basin Capital.

Additional Momentum: Teaming up with Korea-based H Robotics to ramp up U.S. distribution of an exercise therapy device for both upper and lower limb rehabilitation; one of two Texas startups to graduate from a virtual bootcamp from TMCx, the Texas Medical Center's health tech startup accelerator and advance into its main program.


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UT Hydrogen Startup Celadyne Receives Investment from Shell Ventures

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This Student Health Care Startup Wants to Improve Life for People Who Use Wheelchairs

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