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Olin Alumna Selected for Prestigious Tech Incubator at Argonne National Lab


Erika Boeing, a 2010 graduate of Olin College, has won a spot in a competitive national program to grow startup technologies at the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago.

Boeing will be among the second cohort to take part in the Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) program, one of only three tech incubators nationwide to be embedded in a national laboratory. She was chosen for the program following an extensive, two-part pitch competition and reviews by panels of industry experts, investors, scientists and engineers.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) created the lab-embedded programs to provide an institutional home for innovative researchers to build their research into products and grow as entrepreneurs. EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office funds the two-year program, which enables innovators work with some of the best renewable energy scientists and engineers in the world.

Boeing and her company, Accelerate Wind, have developed several inventions that drastically lower the cost of small wind turbine technologies, with an emphasis on small-scale wind power systems that can be integrated as part of a sustainable energy platform to power buildings. A key innovation is a flywheel-based drive train that minimizes costs associated with power electronics — costs that, to date, have been prohibitive for small wind applications.

The opportunity to work at Argonne National Lab will enable Accelerate Wind to tackle a perennial challenge facing hardware startups — that they take so much more time and money to develop than software.

“The Chain Reaction Innovations program was created specifically to address this problem, and give innovators the funding and support needed to develop hardware prototypes to the point that they are ready to enter the market and scale quickly, which is exactly what we need at this phase of development,” said Boeing. “It’s a great opportunity.”

After graduating from Olin, Boeing worked as a systems engineer at DRS Technologies in St. Louis, where she focused on designing new energy, water and waste technologies.

She won a Fulbright to pursue a master’s degree in society, science and technology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. While there, she joined an entrepreneurship program that helped her develop the wind energy concept that became the basis for Accelerate Wind. She moved the company to St. Louis after winning an Arch Grant, which allowed her to focus on the company full time.

Boeing describes herself as a “big picture thinker” with a “core motivation of wanting to increase the sustainability of the world.” She credits her Olin education with setting her on the path to pursue that vision.

“We’re really taking a systems approach to trying to reduce overall costs, which requires bridging a wide variety of disciplines, both on the technical and business side,” said Boeing. “This is something that Olin prepared me very well for, and I think my background has allowed me to dive into a wide variety of problems quickly while developing our wind turbines.”

Argonne National Laboratory is a science and engineering research laboratory operated by the University of Chicago for the US Department of Energy and located near Lemont, Illinois, outside Chicago. It is the largest national laboratory in the Midwest.