Banking & Finance  November 3, 2015

Intel invests in local companies Prieto Battery, KMLabs

Intel Corp. announced on Tuesday that its venture-capital arm, Intel Capital, has invested in a pair of local companies, Prieto Battery in Fort Collins and Boulder-based KMLabs.

The investments were announced at the Intel Global Summit in San Diego. The local companies were among 10 nationwide to receive a total of $22 million in funding.

Specific amounts invested in each company were not disclosed. BizWest reported last month that KMLabs had disclosed in a regulatory filing a new $5.5 million funding round. KMLabs, which makes custom laser systems for research applications that it sells mostly to universities and research institutes, announced on Tuesday that its Series A funding round was led by Intel, with participation from The Colorado Impact Fund, a venture-capital firm based in Denver.

For Prieto Battery, a spinoff of founder Amy Prieto’s academic research at Colorado State University, the investment from Intel is part of a Series B-1 funding round that is ongoing, senior vice president of strategy Katie Hoffner said in a phone interview Tuesday. The new funds will help boost hiring and the purchase of new equipment as the company moves toward commercialization by the end of next year.

Prieto is developing a pair of products. The first is a drop-in anode replacement for lithium-ion batteries that features greater energy density and safety than conventional graphite anodes. That product is expected to reach commercialization in 2016. But the company’s larger play is Prieto’s own 3D lithium-ion solid-state battery cell.

It is commercialization of the full battery cell that Intel’s collaboration is aimed at accelerating. Intel’s investment will be staged to a series of milestones that demonstrate the battery’s performance and readiness.

“They’re really helping us get to the ultimate dream of manufacturing and developing this full 3D lithium-ion cell,” Hoffner said.

Prieto touts its battery, which is designed around a porous copper foam, as being able to last longer on a single charge, charge more quickly, and cost less than conventional lithium-ion batteries. It can also be custom-shaped.

It’s that last point that has Intel excited, as it explores the possibility of the technology for use in wearable devices. As part of the collaboration between Prieto and Intel, Intel will have the first crack at integrating Prieto’s technology into computing devices.

“Prieto’s thoughtful and creative approach to battery innovation is attractive to Intel as we focus on designing and building essential technologies that serve to advance the world’s computing devices,” Jerry Bautista, vice president of Intel’s New Technology Group, said in a press release. “This is particularly true for wearable devices, where a conformal battery with high energy density is highly attractive. Our goal is to help incubate and accelerate Prieto’s technology into early product implementation that will provide significant market advantage to several of our business units.”

Prieto is based at the Research and Innovation Center at CSU and has nine employees. Hoffner said it’s hard to place a figure on just how many employees the company will add over the next 12 months. That will partially depend on investors and the application and volume requirements they have. She said Intel’s manufacturing connections will likely help Prieto stay in its current lab space for the foreseeable future, despite the coming growth.

“Right now, it looks like we’ll be OK because we can piggyback on Intel’s expertise and some of their manufacturing partners and supply chain to help us figure that out,” Hoffner said.

As for KMLabs, its funding from Intel and the Colorado Impact Fund will help the company build out manufacturing capabilities and accelerate product development efforts for new ultrashort-pulse and Extrem UV laser sources. The cash infusion will also help the company expand into more commercially focused markets.

KMLabs is a spinoff of the research efforts of University of Colorado Boulder physics professors Henry Kapteyn and Margaret Murnane.

“Through commercialization of scientific discoveries from Dr. Kapteyn and Dr. Murnane’s world-class research group at the University of Colorado, Intel’s investment in KMLabs will enable semiconductor equipment suppliers to have access to technology needed to create yield management and process tools for future generations of semiconductor technology,” Intel corporate vice president and general manager of global supply management Robert Bruck said in a press release.

Intel Corp. announced on Tuesday that its venture-capital arm, Intel Capital, has invested in a pair of local companies, Prieto Battery in Fort Collins and Boulder-based KMLabs.

The investments were announced at the Intel Global Summit in San Diego. The local companies were among 10 nationwide to receive a total of $22 million in funding.

Specific amounts invested in each company were not disclosed. BizWest reported last month that KMLabs had disclosed in a regulatory filing a new $5.5 million funding round. KMLabs, which makes custom laser systems for research applications that it sells mostly…

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