PORTAL is UNC Charlotte’s powerhouse of innovation, designed to support the region’s entrepreneurial environment. So, it was a fitting location for a major announcement on Thursday, Feb. 9, by Atom Power officials that it had secured an equity investment from Siemens to advance its revolutionary circuit breaker design.
Ryan Kennedy, a UNC Charlotte alumnus, is CEO of Atom Power, founded in 2014 to make commercial power safer and more efficient through a novel circuit breaker design. The company has been headquartered in PORTAL, since May 2015.
“For decades, circuit breakers and panels have been mostly mechanical in nature with limited control points,” said Kennedy, who earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UNC Charlotte. “Since our founding, we have developed circuit breakers that are not only dynamic and intelligent but are making electricity safe by preventing arc flash hazards.”
He said the funding, received in partnership with next47, the independent innovation arm of Siemens, will accelerate Atom Power’s initiatives toward achieving UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories) listing and development of higher amperage circuit breakers currently under development.
Terry Royer, vice president of operations and product development for Siemens Low Voltage and Product business, noted, “Atom Power is on the leading edge of a fundamental change in the traditional circuit breaker and shows great promise toward enhanced energy awareness and faster reactions times in an increasingly complex energy landscape. “
At its offices in PORTAL, Atom Power currently employs seven UNC Charlotte graduates as full-time employees, and it offers student internships and has sponsored senior design projects through the Lee College of Engineering.
“PORTAL was perfect for us, because we wanted to be close to the Lee College of Engineering and the labs in EPIC,” Kennedy said. “EPIC has great, robust infrastructure and the Electrical Engineering Department is very focused on power at the systems level, which is a great fit with us.”
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who attended the Feb. 9 funding announcement, said Atom Power is part of the city’s growing energy industry, which is helping to diversity Charlotte’s economic base. She added that Atom Power benefited from its association with UNC Charlotte — a research university that is an incredibly important place for the development of new ideas and where innovation can thrive.
"UNC Charlotte and the Charlotte Research Institute continue to support economic growth through research, business startup and collaborative ventures with business. The PORTAL building has been a great accelerator for this strategy, and Atom Power is one more demonstration of the results that come from leveraging good ideas, talent and business opportunities," said Bob Wilhelm, UNC Charlotte vice chancellor of research and economic development.