Nuenz Inc. -- the North American arm of a company based in New Zealand -- has established a small initial operation in Baird Research Park while it considers Western New York for a manufacturing operation.
The company has been accepted into the Start-Up NY tax-breaks program and is developing relationships with UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences as it looks to do pilot work based on the silicon nitride fibers it developed out of Victoria University. It is also considering a partnership with the Buffalo Manufacturing Works project.
The Nuenz initiative is being overseen by Keith Blakely of The InVentures Group, which was first engaged by Nuenz Ltd. several years ago to help it identify customers and applications for its high-performance material. Blakely found issues with the company’s manufacturing approach and helped it develop an alternative process, after which it began to explore an operation in the United States. Nuenz also considered the Charlotte area.
The company currently has two labs in the UB Technology Incubator at Baird, where it is manufacturing initial quantities of material while gathering information about commercial applicability and potential markets.
“Right now, it is a gestation period while we wait to quantify those commercial opportunities, then we’ll move forward with the growth plans,” Blakely said.
The company’s fibers could be useful in reinforcing plastics, polymers and resins, strengthening the overall structure with less weight and fewer layers.
It’s hard to say how Nuenz’s technology will play in the composites marketplace, and the question boils down to how many different commercial applications it has, Blakely said.
“It’s not hard to envision this being a manufacturing operation that employs 50 to 100 people and our Start-Up projections were along those lines,” he said, referring to the projections that the Nuenz project would create 40 net new jobs. “But if a major wind turbine company decided this is a way to improve their energy output, efficiency and reliability, you could see an operation that’s much bigger.”