Life is about comebacks and the power of second chances. If you have been knocked down, counted out, written off, and left behind, pick yourself up, dust yourself off…and start all over again.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ali Emadi, Founder, President, and CEO of Enedym, a technology start-up company from McMaster University in Canada that develops next generation switched reluctance motors (SRMs), electric propulsion, and electrified powertrains. Enedym has ownership of over 50 patents and pending patent applications and related inventions developed by Dr. Emadi. Enedym’s vision is to reduce the cost of electric propulsion motors significantly and power a new paradigm in the electric motor industry through novel switched reluctance motor (SRM) drive technologies. Enedym aspires to help save the planet, one electric motor market at a time.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for interviewing me!
My story begins 11 years ago when I was named the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Hybrid Powertrain as well as a Professor in the Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Mechanical Engineering (ME) at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. The CERC appointment meant I would receive 10 million dollars in Canadian federal funding over 2011–2018, as well as significant financial support from the university, to conduct electrified vehicle research. The appointment also included a new electrified vehicle research facility that is part of the new 80,000 square-foot McMaster Automotive Resource Center (MARC) at McMaster Innovation Park.
I was very fortunate to not only have this tremendous funding with a new facility, I was also given nearly a decade to conduct my research — which meant we could do it the right way and not worry about a ticking clock on the funding.
During my time at McMaster I have founded two spin-off companies — Enedym Inc. and MenloLab Inc. I am currently President and CEO of Enedym, which develops next-generation electric propulsion and electrified powertrains. Our goal — and a lofty one — is to cut the cost of electric propulsion motors significantly and power a new paradigm in the electric motor industry through novel switched reluctance motor (SRM) drive technologies. We aspire to help save the planet, one electric motor market at a time.
Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
In a nutshell, Enedym is building electric drive technologies that have simpler construction, lower cost, higher efficiency, better robustness, and a more stable supply chain.
We are building a new paradigm for energy systems. Our technology is truly cutting edge and as a company we have ownership of over 50 patents and pending patent applications and related inventions.
A significant portion of the 15 million electric motors manufactured around the world each DAY, are permanent magnet motors that use rare earth metals. In the long run, this poses a tremendous problem. Rare metals are exactly what you think — rare — which means they are hard to source, hard to procure and very expensive. We believe that it is critical that this dynamic be changed. At Enedym, what we have created is technology free of rare earth metals– a new generation of electric motors that take the rare earth metals out of the equation.
Our vision is to power a new standard in the electric motor industry through novel SRM drive technologies. To accomplish this, we have developed game changing IP, innovative engineering digitization processes, and software tools to meet demands across multiple industries in a state of rapid transformation. This is all a part of Enedym’s truly analytical approach to motor design and manufacturing, powered by advanced software technologies that allow us to develop motors at a fraction of time and cost of conventional methods.
Global dependence on rare earth metals has not gotten the press that the current computer chip shortage that is currently plaguing the automotive industry has. It is our view that this chip problem is ultimately solve-able and will lead to a future investment into making these chips. Of course, what’s happening with the chips is not an ideal situation, but we feel the supply chain will adjust over time to accommodate the chip demand.
Dependance on rare earth metals is a much bigger problem that is not easily solved, and is not just a supply chain issue. It is a lot more expensive to solve the rare earth metals dilemma — these are finite natural resources and most of them are in China thus making access by the U.S. incredibly difficult, expensive, unsustainable, and risky for businesses
How do you think this might change the world?
There is rapid electrification across major industries, coinciding with an increased emphasis on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) regulations. The fact is that there are geopolitical supply chain risks associated with a dependance on rare earth metals that could be quite troublesome in the future.
Our solution aims to change the world by addressing these risks and, most importantly, changing the way people think about electric motors. There are 15 million motors manufactured every single day, which of course has a tremendous impact on the planet. Our technology is much more environmentally friendly and sustainable, more efficient and lower cost.
Currently about 46% of global energy demand comes from electric motors and 95% of current traction motors use permanent magnets, with 84% of rare earth metal production in China. This dependency on a rare natural resource is not good, particularly from a hard-to-access entity like China. In our process we have removed rare earth metals from electric motor construction which improves supply chain and sustainability, reduces costs by about 40% and improves efficiency. In addition, we have digitized electric motors development with our proprietary software, our patented technologies and an advanced, next generation manufacturing strategy.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
The real tipping point for me was, as I mentioned, when I received the 21 million dollars in funding from the Canadian Government (10 million dollars) and McMaster University (11 million dollars) in 2011. With a 7-year timeline, I had a long runway to conduct research and commercialize the results through the establishment of an automotive spinoff company.
We had the time, the money and the luxury to think BIG. We wanted to change the game and we were able to take our time, focus on fundamentals and, in the end, invent a new generation of electric motors.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption or usage?
One of our prevailing goals is in the tagline for Enedym: “We want to change how the world moves, together.” In order to gain widespread adoption or usage, we need unprecedented collaboration, working partnerships and camaraderie among industry participants. The next chapter for us is in improving production quality and the opening of the rapid prototyping facility.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We’ve had a few exciting announcements recently, including a 15 million dollars fund raise and the addition of talented people to our Board. But we have yet to use aggressive marketing to position ourselves as a disruptor in the electric motor industry. Many companies have lots of marketing “sizzle” and not a lot of “steak” — we are different in that way. Our core focus is to continue to improve our technology and get the job done. This article is one of the first profile pieces we have done and we’re very excited!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
For me that person would be Randy Reisinger, Enedym’s co-founder and Board Member. He is one of the most thoughtful people I have ever known. A former Apple executive who helped form Apple’s first corporate sales group and an advisor to the famed Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) where the “mouse” was invented and icon computing originated, Randy’s strategic long-term thinking has had a tremendous influence not just on me, but on Enedym as a whole. His DNA is all over our corporate structure. I have been very lucky to have Randy as a confidant and strategist. Not many start-ups are fortunate enough to have such talent behind them.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We strongly believe in building things that will last from generation to generation. To that end, one of the most important things to us — and one of the best ways to bring goodness to the world — is through mentoring and training others. Our goal is to prepare the next generation to be entrepreneurial, to conduct responsible, ethical research and represent McMaster and Enedym in the best way possible and do good things in the world.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started My Company” and why.
- You cannot do everything — delegate to your team and focus on a few big strategic wins.
- Mentors are critical — recruit as many mentors (and mentees!) as you possibly can.
- Life is not always fair; your whole world might turn upside down in an instant.
- Life is about comebacks and the power of second chances. If you have been knocked down, counted out, written off, and left behind, pick yourself up, dust yourself off…and start all over again.
- Follow your heart and be different…even if it means people will look at you like you’re crazy.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Nothing fails like success.
This is one of the many lessons I have learned from Robert (Bob) F. Anderson. Bob was the co-founder and CEO of my first start-up company, Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies, Inc. (HEVT), a spin-off company of the Illinois Institute of Technology. More than 15 years ago, Bob told me that in order to move from laboratory research concept/idea to experimental proof of concept, we would need to increase our efforts nearly 10 times. And then 10 times that to do product development and 10 times again for final marketing and commercialization. The pace seemed dizzying! I did not fully believe him back then — although he had also told me that he had pants older than me and I needed to listen to him, which of course I did. Many years later, I fully agree with what Bob had taught me — meaning eventual success would require 1,000 times more effort than the initial technology idea/concept. This makes you humble — which I think is a good thing in all areas of life.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Follow us on LinkedIn @ https://www.linkedin.com/company/enedym/ and Twitter @EnedymInc
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.