Robert Catell has taken a board seat at Stony Brook-based anti-counterfeiting biotech Applied DNA Sciences, the latest addition to a résumé overflowing with executive accolades. A former chairman of KeySpan and National Grid’s U.S. operations, the current chair of the New York Smart Grid Consortium and SBU’s Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center boasts decades of energy-related experience on all levels – knowledge that could prove key as Applied DNA eyes a lucrative new vertical.
APPLYING YOURSELF: I’ve chaired the Applied DNA Sciences advisory board since February. It was felt that my business experience could provide some value from an overall governance perspective. Perhaps more importantly, some of the areas where the company is now getting active – the energy industry, with regards to infrastructure – are areas where I’ve spent my entire career.
INFRA-VISION: I think it’s an obvious extension of the business and the company has been looking at it for some time. We are interested in the security of both energy and communications infrastructure, but we’re focusing on energy initially. The infrastructure is getting older and the company can provide technology to enhance security of the whole system. We can provide a good deal of value in that setting, and I can be helpful in making the right contacts.
PARTY IN THE AERTC: The building is completely full. We have many grants from both state and federal government to do research in the energy sector. We’re looking at things like renewables, the integration of renewables and storage, which is going to be critical to the future energy-distribution system.
GROWTH SPURT: We were fortunate to win an award under the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council system to do the design for a 25,000-square-foot expansion. It will allow us to do more research in the energy-delivery sector and give us more room to house early-stage companies. We have a number of Start-Up NY businesses in the building and we need to increase the space. We need $25 million to build the expansion and we’re in the process of talking to the appropriate state officials.
ISLAND LIVING: Long Island is a unique place when it comes to energy, with a long history in energy, some of which is not too helpful. Long Island consumers are still burdened with the cost of the Shoreham nuclear plant, which never operated. We need to focus on renewables – the wind, the solar and the storage – that can produce energy at a very economic price, so we can broaden our energy sights while minimizing the impact on ratepayers.
POWER LIFT: I was one of the first investors in ThermoLift. I saw it as being a product that would have great appeal in the marketplace – both heating and cooling, using natural gas at a very efficient rate, in a single unit that’s environmentally benign. When I met CEO Paul Schwartz, I told him I wished we had it back in my early days at Brooklyn Union. The customers would love it. It’s also been supported by the Long Island Angels Network, where I sit on the board, and by the fine VC firm Topspin. Many people believe in the technology and we’re moving along very nicely. And I’m happy to say that ThermoLift was born right here in the AERTC.
CLEAN LIVING: I think the clean-gen industry is moving ahead quite rapidly. Technologies in the solar space and the wind space have improved greatly. And the economics have improved significantly, making it more economical to integrate these renewables into the energy system. Obviously, with goals established by the governor like having 50 percent of our energy come from renewables by 2030, developing new technologies will play a significant role in that.
GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: I think Long Island has a real possibility of being a leader in this space. The AERTC has a wonderful relationship with Brookhaven National Laboratory, one of the premier Department of Energy laboratories, and with so many technology companies being developed on Long Island, from an overall supply point, I think Long Island can really lead in solar and wind and creating cleaner conventional generation that operates more efficiently.
STANDALONE: The uniqueness of Long Island being an island gives us further opportunity to be a leader in this space. We can better control our destiny. And we have the Long Island Power Authority, which is a municipal entity that can do some things that private entities can’t do. I’m a big proponent of the private energy industry, obviously, and the municipal entity obviously has to comply with the same safety regulations, but with government support, the municipal entity can avoid some taxes and some of the regulatory paperwork and get some things done.