We appreciate the help in starting a business, recapitulates a successful nanotechnology company

Jan Procházka, a scientist, physical and material chemist, remembers a time when the word nanotechnology did not exist yet and conferences on new technologies were focused on the field of "nano" only partially. Nowaday, he is a co-owner of a factory for the production of his own invention - a high-energy battery, a 3D space battery based on lithium nanomaterials - HE3DA (High Energy 3D Accumulator).

J. Procházka is one of the long-term clients of the Technology Centre CAS (TC). From the beginning, when the first prototype battery had not even exist, he participated in trade fairs within the international Enterprise Europe Network, where he presented himself at the stand of the TC. The support from TC in the beginning of the business was very beneficial for the company.

In the interview we asked J. Procházka for bringing answers to the questions of how his journey through the world of business began and where his company is heading to. Moreover, his new invention (self-cleaning nanocoatings) will be presented below.

In what year did the idea for the HE3DA battery come about?
It was sometime at the end of 2006, the first experiment could be in 2007. The first investors in this project started coming in 2008 and in 2009 a company was founded with them. Production thus began 11 years after the entire concept was tested.

How did the cooperation with TC start, when you first met our services?

It was in Japan at the NanoTech exhibition 2012, where we were with CzechInvest support. However, I've met there the technology transfer manager for nanotechnologies of TC who introduced me the TC technology support program and the services of the Enterprise Europe Network. We were interested in it, especially because of the better connection to research, development and wider cooperation with partners abroad. The following year we exhibited at the EuroNanoForum trade fair in Dublin at the TC stand, where I presented the company Advanced Materials - JTJ s.r.o., which produces photocatalytic nanopaints for air purification.

How did the exhibition at the stand of TC benefit you?

When you start a business, you only deal with costs and again costs. So TC's help in this direction was unreplaceable, because we could not afford a stand at this stage of business. At the stand, we also met other progressive entrepreneurs from the field of nanotechnology, which was extremely beneficial. These relations gradually gave rise to the Czech "nanocluster", and over time also to the Association of Nanotechnology Companies.

You exhibited regularly with TC both in the Czech Republic and abroad. What were the responses of visitors of the fairs?
I must say that the responses were very positive. The TC stand has always been interesting because of presence of more companies from the same field. I must again emphasize the professionalism and continuity of TC services and support, which often represented us at the stand when we could not attend in person. It is necessary to realize that when you start in a field that is actually in its infancy, you have no money, you deal with the necessary costs of certifications, etc., you do not have the first 10-14 years of marketing, so any help in this direction is invaluable. I am convinced that the help of TC helped us to overcome the so-called "valley of death".

Let us remind you that you also exhibited with TC at the trade fair For Energo in May 2016 in Prague, where you won the Grand Prix for the best exhibit with the first exhibit of the HE3DA battery. Did this price help you in anything?

The price pleased us, increased our self-confidence, but that's all. (Laughter). Here in the office, as you can see, I have one diploma next to another, but that doesn't do business. From a senator from Nevada, for example, I have an award for technology for cooling the planet. For cleaning nanocoatings with Advanced Materials - JTJ s.r.o. Here we have another award from the European Business Award 2019 competition, where we were announced as the National Winner for the Czech Republic in the top fifteen most innovative European companies.

So you have HE3DA and still do business with Advanced Materials - JTJ?

Yes, the HE3DA battery has only slightly outpaced other projects, but today, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a great development of markets for our coatings. It can be said that everything was waiting for the right moment. In this beginning nano-field, we all have an anabasis with difficult beginnings. I mean, for example, the sale of personal property, unfavorable loans, etc. We have all really gone through this.

You are the researcher who invented the HE3DA battery. Did you know from the beginning that you would succeed with it?

If a scientist wants to be successful, he must act like a businessman from the beginning. Before leaving the republic, I worked at Tesla. There we did top research, which did not lag behind the world. But we did the so-called "drawer". I told myself I would never do this again. And when I get back, I follow that.

At the InterSolar Munich 2017 trade fair, you exhibited at the TC stand together with the Solar Monitoring company and its solar panels from Mr. Poulka which the HE3DA battery was connected to. Do you have any other signicicant partners?

We work with a number of partners. It is, for example, the company Leancat, which produces hydrogen cells and with our battery will ensure the energy storage. At the opening of our factory in Horní Suchá, we also introduced a car for the Dakar race, which should run with our starter batteries. In the future, we plan electric trucks.

We are sitting in your office in Prague in Letňany, where you have built the first production line. When did you build it? And how long did you build the factory in Horní Suchá?

We built this line in 2016 in just six months. However, we built the factory in Horní Suchá for three years (2017-2020). For half a year a group of blackmailers blocked our building permit, due to the alleged occurrence of a butterfly in an inhospitable slag on the territory of the former František mine. For interest - the former mining tower, which still stands there, is now the largest air purifier in the Czech Republic, probably in Europe. It is completely covered by our photocatalytic self-cleaning nanocoat.

What impact does this air purification have in particular? Can you specify that?

It will be some 90 billion cubic meters of air per year that this area will come into contact with. It is a huge mass of air and this tower compensates for emissions from the operation of approximately 700 cars. We have our nano-coatings also abroad. The Czech embassy in Washington D. C. is painted as well as the embassy in Canada, we also have reference nanopaints in Budapest or Nanowall in Kensington Gardens in London. But even in the Czech Republic we have a lot of nanocoats. Today, we already have devices on which we can show customers how many colonies of bacteria form on the surface of the wall untreated with our coatings, and vice versa on the treated surface, where the device shows practically zero. Thanks to technology, we can show these tests to customers. Including the measurement of VOC particles (volatile substances in the air causing, for example, cancer - formaldehyde, pyrene, etc.), which occur in the environment around us. Unfortunately, this also applies to current disinfectants, which we spray on our hands. As a result, these volatile particles accumulate around us so much that the VOC meter can "go crazy". (The following is a demonstration of hand spray and VOC particle measurement, when the meter is in a red field with a high number. In Mr. Procházka's office, whose walls and ceiling are treated with photocatalytic coatings, we felt safe. Because there were about ten minutes from the spray demonstration zero, ie healthy air.)

If we return to the HE3DA battery, the fact that you and your partners opened recently a factory for the production of the Magna Energy Storage (MES) battery in Horní Suchá near Havířov is a great success. The media have already published articles on how you plan production. We would like to know how you view the competition, or what makes you unique?

The competition is all around us today. But we have a production process that is significantly cheaper. To sum it up, you can either use nanoparticles to have an extremely fast flashlight (which I did in 2001-5), or it will allow you to make a flashlight economical, easily recyclable and, above all, super safe. We have stopped competing for a lower weight flashlight, we care about reliable power distribution, cheap production and recyclability. But mainly on absolute safety. With our flashlight you can crack, throw it into the fire, throw it from the bridge and you will not destroy it. It won't explode on you. So we don't "argue" about watts per kilo, but our motto is that the battery is much safer than any other. In addition, all battery components are recyclable.

In addition to primary energy storage, you plan batteries for ships, military applications, batteries for electric motors, you want to get a battery to the moon. Are you planning anything else?

When you mentioned space, we have a demand from ESA (European Space Agency), which needs a so-called non-vibrating "battery pack" for telecommunications satellites. We have non-vibration technology, our battery is also resistant to -40 ° C to -60 ° C without insulation. With our own insulation technology, it is resistant to very low temperatures. If you ask about plans, they are all the ones you mention, and in our country it is not that far from plan to reality today.

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