Hartford Business Journal: CT Green Guide Fall 2016: Mass. battery entrepreneur sets sights on CT

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Christina Lampe-Onnerud (center) aims to grow her new Oxford battery company with the help of the team that helped her launch Boston Power in 2005, including husband Per Onnerud (rear).

Christina Lampe-Onnerud (center) aims to grow her new Oxford battery company with the help of the team that helped her launch Boston Power in 2005, including husband Per Onnerud (rear).

Christina Lampe-Onnerud, an inorganic chemist and battery expert, launched a successful company in Massachusetts over a decade ago.  Now she’s hoping for a repeat performance in Connecticut.

She and a handful of other original founders of lithium-ion battery maker Boston-Power, including her husband, Per Onnerud, have officially launched Cadenza Innovation in Oxford.

Cadenza revealed in mid-July that it had raised $5.2 million — capital it intends to use to hire staff and further develop its battery storage offerings, among other tasks.

Connecticut’s quasi-public venture capital and lending arm, Connecticut Innovations, participated in the round, which was led by New York-based Golden Seeds.

In a telephone interview last month, Lampe-Onnerud said Cadenza is targeting the electric-vehicle and electric-storage markets.  The company doesn’t intend to be a battery manufacturer, but aims to license its technology and architectures to battery makers and others, she said.

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Cadenza is developing electric-car battery designs and architectures that offer more
power density and flexibility in terms of where they can be installed in a vehicle.

Cadenza is already known to several major corporations, thanks to a federal grant its predecessor company received in 2013.  Since then, Cadenza has been working with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to test its designs.  The company lists several other big partners, including Alcoa, Morgan Advanced Materials, and electric-grid builder ABB.

Cadenza says it has developed a way to pack more energy density into lithium-ion batteries.  Its technology also includes novel ways to organize and house battery components, to allow for greater flexibility for auto makers.

Lampe-Onnerud said electric vehicles and batteries in general have come a long way since Boston-Power was founded in 2005, two years before Apple’s release of its first generation iPhone.

“We have charging stations, we have government thinking about EV infrastructure,” she said.

Massachusetts-based Boston-Power, an EV and computer battery maker that moved much of its manufacturing operation to China after securing a major investment and incentives in 2011, has raised $351 million in funding since its inception, according to CrunchBase.  Venture capital data tracked CB Insights speculated late last year that the company could be on the path to a public offering.

“We were the underdogs and we basically were able to gain a small but somewhat impactful position,” said Lampe- Onnerud, reflecting back on her time with the company.

Lampe-Onnerud hasn’t been involved running Boston- Power for nearly four years, but she said she still holds an undisclosed ownership stake in the company.

Meanwhile, Cadenza has been in a sort-of stealth mode for the past several years.

The company registered with the Connecticut Secretary of the State’s office in 2014, later canceling, then registering again in June, records show.

Lampe-Onnerud and her team didn’t want to go public with Cadenza until they were confident they had good ideas.

“We wanted to convince ourselves first we had something substantial,” she said. “This announcement and coming out of stealth mode are an acknowledgement that we can do some good work in the space.”

She said Cadenza, which as of July had 10 employees, is on the hunt for engineers and other workers in Connecticut.  There were a handful of positions open last month on the company’s website, cadenzainnovation.com.

The company is also searching for a larger headquarters facility in Connecticut. It currently has space on Morse Road in Oxford.

It was no secret Lampe-Onnerud had something in the works.

Cadenza’s predecessor company, Cloteam LLC (pronounced Cee-El-Oh-Team) — founded the same year Lampe-Onnerud left Boston-Power’s board — received some press in 2013 when it won $3.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program to develop improvements to the way lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles are packaged — making them cheaper, more compact and energy dense, but able to withstand damage in an accident.

It was also known that Lampe-Onnerud, a known name in the Massachusetts tech community, had moved to Connecticut in 2013.  She and Per Onnerud moved here after she was hired by Westport hedge fund Bridgewater Associates.

The couple lives in Wilton, where Lampe-Onnerud serves on the town energy commission.  She departed her position at Bridgewater in 2014.

By Matt Pilon

CT Green Guide Fall 2016