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UW-Milwaukee battery spinout SafeLi rebrands as COnovate, lands $50K investment

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

COnovate, Inc., a Shorewood company developing materials for lithium ion batteries, is receiving $50,000 in a seed investment from BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, the Milwaukee-based nonprofit and an early-stage investment organization.

COnovate was formerly known as SafeLi LLC, a startup founded in 2016 by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professors Carol Hirschmugl and Marija Gajdardziska-Josifovska.

The company’s material, named Cophite, is designed to add battery capacity and charging speed to lithium ion batteries. Gajdardziska-Josifovska and Hirschmugl discovered and patented the new materials for lithium-ion batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles, power tools and consumer electronics.

Carol Hirschmugl SafeLi Portrait copy

Carol Hirschmugl of COnovate and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Earlier this year, COnovate, a 2020 Wisconsin Innovation Awards winner, received a $100,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant to commercialize its material, and in late 2019, received just over $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund its growth. The funds from BrightStar will help expand the business from academic lab to pre-commercial scale-up and will help the company open a Series A investment round next year.

“COnovate grew from deep expertise of UWM physicists and highlights the strength of UWM as a research institution and a source for innovations that can scale and impact the world,” Brian Thompson, UWM Research Foundation president, said in a statement. “The company founders embraced the customer discovery process as a core competency to help them identify opportunities, and I’m pleased that they were able to leverage the growing support structure at UWM and in the Milwaukee community to move them to the next level.”

In addition to investing in COnovate, BrightStar also announced it has invested $50,000 in Retham Technologies, a Wauwatosa company that is developing a diagnostic drug that will replace the slow two-test system that delays patient care in hospital laboratories. The drug will diagnose Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, which is an adverse reaction to the blood thinner heparin. In one-third of cases, it causes blood clotting that can result in consequences such as amputation, stroke and death, according to the company.

Daniel Sem, Retham’s acting CEO and dean of business at Concordia University, said the company expects its HITDx assay to be on the market and in clinical labs by 2023.

In late 2019, Retham was awarded a Phase I SBIR grant for up to $75,000.

BrightStar’s seed investments were made possible through matching funds from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.’s Capital Catalyst program.


Source: Wisconsin Inno – UW-Milwaukee battery spinout SafeLi rebrands as COnovate, lands $50K investment

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