SHELTON — Solar company Opel Technologies has secured a $5 million line of credit from Silicon Valley Bank in Newton, Mass.

A statement from the company, which has offices in Shelton and in Toronto, Canada, explains that the credit will be used to fund U.S. and foreign receivables. Silicon Valley Bank is geared toward technology and science enterprisses, as well as those in venture capital and private equity.

Opel is a manufacturer of high concentration photovoltaic solar panels and solar tracker systems for commercial, industrial and military applications. It currently has 35 patents issued and 12 pending.

 SHELTON — Cara Therapeutics Inc. is testing a new drug that could reduce the need for post-operative pain medications.

The company has started first-in-man, Phase 1 clinical trials of an oral form of its CR845 pain compound, which will act on the central nervous system to reduce acute post-operative pain without side effects. An intravenous formula of the drug is already in Phase 2 trials.

The company reports that patients using CR845 experienced less pain and needed fewer post-operative narcotic drugs to treat the pain in a previous Phase 2 trial for the new compound.

The drug is being tested for safety and its reactions with the body, but Cara says that 150 people have taken the drug, with none reporting dysphoria or hallucinations — both common side effects of centrally acting drugs.

 STRATFORD — Sikorsky Aircraft has received a patent for its Integrated Support System, an aftermarket management software suite.

The software gathers maintenance and support information from the various aircraft in a fleet to create a real-time status summary of an aircraft’s health that can be accessed by aircrew and maintenance personnel.

 EAST HARTFORD — Umbie Health Corp. has received $150,000 in financing from Connecticut Innovations Inc. (CII) for development of a mobile and Web-based practice-management app for dentists.

The Umbie DentalCare app, currently prototyped, will allow dentists to update, record and view patient records remotely via a tablet, with all data kept in secure cloud storage. Doctors also will be able to conduct scheduling, employee time management and client service tasks with the program.

The startup company plans to launch the app at the Yankee Dental Show in Boston next month. It is also planning management apps for home health care and hospice care.

Umbie is the 17th company to be funded through CII’s Pre-Seed Fund, which will be used for technology development, beta testing, business development and marketing. The grant will be matched by $75,000 from private investors.

 Third 2011 layoff round company’s largest, affecting 6 percent

 

STRATFORD — The latest round of job cuts at Sikorsky Aircraft will exceed six percent of the helicopter maker's global workforce, the company announced November 21.

The reduction will impact mostly salaried workers, said Sikorsky Communications Director Paul Jackson.

"It's essentially to adjust our overall cost structure," said Jackson. He noted that the number of employees was no longer commensurate with company needs, largely due to international and domestic developments, including lower demand expected for the kinds of products and services Sikorsky offers.

"We have very tight global economics that impact our commercial business," said Jackson. In addition, "there's declining defense spending. Essentially, we have to adjust our overall workforce."

The announcement follows two other job reductions. The company announced in September it would cut three percent of its workforce, 567 jobs in all, with 419 jobs lost in Connecticut. The majority of those cuts will affect union workers in Stratford, who are still negotiating with management over which workers will be eligible for a voluntary separation package. In June, Sikorsky announced a 386-worker layoff.

Nearly half of Sikorsky's 18,000 workers are based in Connecticut.

"We had too many people," says Jackson, explaining that Sikorsky is readjusting after a significant increase in the number of employees several years ago.

"We're coming off a really big ramp-up," he said. "For the past five years, I'd say, our sales have doubled and we increased the number of our employees by 56 percent. So we had a lot of people working here."

The company is offering a voluntary severance package to workers age 55 and older with at least 10 years of service. Those interested in accepting the voluntary layoff have until Dec. 5 to submit a letter of intent, with the company setting Jan. 6 as the final day for agreements to be signed.

Sikorsky would then have a better idea of any further job cuts that would be needed, said Jackson.

 

Through the first nine months of 2011, Sikorsky made $5.2 billion in operating profits, according to its parent company, United Technologies Corp., largely due to U.S. defense contracts. The company is also facing government scrutiny over its billing practices, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, and is fighting a $90 million dispute with the Army related to alleged overcharges from 1999 to 2006.

 

However, business-activity projections for the next two years are cause for concern, says Jackson. He doesn't expect Sikorsky to reinstate laid-off workers during that time.

 

"The outlook is for 2012 and 2013 to be challenging years," he says. "After that we'll reassess. Hopefully, things will turn around.”

 


Would-be technology titans confab in the City of Elms

 

 

Entrepreneurial wizards from across the Northeast and beyond came to New Haven to make themselves known to the technology community.

Nearly 400 attendees gathered at the October 27 Innovation and Entrepreneurship Summit at the Omni-New Haven Hotel to recognize promising companies and preview 70 new and emerging startups in the “Companies to Watch” poster fair.

It was a Mamaroneck, N.Y. company that won the Elevator Pitch competition, in which participants voted on three startups to receive $10,000 of professional services (donated by New Haven marketing agency Digital Surgeons).

SirGroovy, an online platform designed to streamline the process of obtaining music licensing for film, television and advertising, beat out two Connecticut-based startups: New Canaan’s MyLuckClub, an online portal for making recommendations to prospective homebuyers; and SmallTalk, a mobile phone networking app. The group behind that app met and fostered the idea at Hartford’s Startup Weekend in September.

The SmallTalk app is aimed at professionals attending conferences and conventions, offering conversation-starters by collecting information on attendees from their social networking profiles.

It even features a GPS function so users can locate the person they want to connect with.

Eric Rogers, one of the startup’s founders, said the idea arose from a desire to identify an easier way to network.

“I think we’ve all been there: You go to a conference or a trade show, or even just at the bar. It’s intimidating unless you have that close circle, and many times you don’t know anybody there,” Rogers said. “So being able to dissect and get into that crowd by knowing what you have in common with others is a great way around that.”

The app would generate revenue through advertising, and Rogers said the app also is geared toward event-planning services; the benefit to attendees makes the event more successful to the planners and sponsors as well. The app is currently in beta, and the company is seeking additional programmers to develop it further.

South Glastonbury-based Raditaz is a location-based music streaming app similar to those such as Pandora, though founder and CEO Tom Brophy boasts his app’s access to 13 million songs, versus the Pandora’s roughly 800,000.

“[Other companies] have people that listen to every single song and log the characteristics of every song,” Brophy explained. “We do it differently. If you listen to a station for the Cure, you’ll want to listen to stations that other people who like the Cure listen to. It’s crowd-sourced.”

Brophy said that Raditaz’s GPS functionality shows where the listeners are, enabling the company to be more precise with its advertising. The app creates music “stations” based on an artist the user sets, and plays music by that artist and others that users with similar interests listen to. A map of the user’s location also shows stations set up by nearby users, which can be listened to with a tap of a button.

“The marketplace we’re in is growing dramatically,” Brophy said, raising his smart phone. “More and more people are going to be walking around with these. So we’re in a good position and we think our business model makes sense.”

Chris Briere, a freshman at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, was representing MoxMe!, a Mansfield-based company of which his father, Danny Briere, is CEO. MoxMe! is a community-wide software platform for social networking, allowing schools and organizations to stream and access videos online.

Briere says an investment in a security-style camera mounted in a room is all it could take to make sporting events, classes, community functions and meetings available remotely, even on local television networks.

“If I’m sick, I can look in on a class and see what I missed; now I don’t have to make up a day of school,” Briere said. “And you’d have access to all the games, all the concerts.”

Briere said opportunities for revenue generation derive from advertising or software licensing. The program was given a beta trial last year at E.O. Smith, and Briere said the company is hoping to get schools across the state on board. MoxMe! is seeking investments for marketing and further development.

Other startups at the event produce products you can actually hold in your hand. Biosol is an Australian wastewater technology company whose additive chemicals combat the bacteria in sewage water to prevent corrosion and degradation of sewer pipes and facilities.

Innovation Hub’s John Bethune represented Biosol and discussed its efforts to enter the U.S. market. He said lack of investment in the infrastructure of sewage treatment plants over the years has led to a decline in their productivity and efficiency, and further neglect could lead to a collapse of the system.

“If we stop the process, there’s no production of hydrogen sulfide or conversion to sulfuric acid,” Bethune explained. “We’ve created a process to mimic how cells talk to each other, and we can put the bacteria to sleep.”

Yale alum Doug McPheters is president of HoloTouch, which designs touchless holographic controls that can be used in place of mechanical buttons to open doors or operate elevators, kiosks or medical and military equipment. Waving your fingers over a holographic image is all it takes to trigger the device.

McPheters said the touch-free sensors are also more sanitary since they do not accumulate dirt and germs from repeated physical contact, and don’t have moving parts that could fail from repeated use.

The holographic switches have been installed at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s York Street facility since May 2010 without any problems, McPheters said. According to the building’s Physical Security Manager Marvin White, tactile switches are replaced every two months due to heavy use.

Wahooo, a swim safety system, was inspired by tragedy in the town of Redding. After a young boy drowned in a local swimming hole, three fathers spent the past five years, and $500,000 of their own money, developing a safety device that can be worn by swimmers.

Marketing director Thomas Healy showed off a pair of swimmer’s goggles with a small sensor on the back of the headband which sends an electrical signal to an alarm receiver that can be heard by lifeguards if the swimmer has been submerged for 20 seconds. The alarms persist the longer the swimmer is under water.

There are also locator devices that can hone in on the location of a submerged sensor, enabling rescuers to find a potential drowning victim quickly, especially in darkness.

“We’re the only lifeguard system that has this locator feature and that works in dark water. It’s revolutionary,” Healy said. “Drowning is a silent killer; people go under and they just don’t come up. We liken this to be the bike helmet for swimming.”

Healy said his company’s products are designed and manufactured in Connecticut, and the company is in the process of getting the product to market, targeting potential users such as YMCAs and Jewish community centers.

Keynote speaker Watts Wacker, a noted author, futurist and commentator, said inspiration was where innovation begins. Wahooo was inspired by unfortunate circumstances, while others were inspired by caution to avoid disaster.

Autotether, a Chester company that was one of two earning the Most Promising Technology Product or Service of the Year Award during the summit’s awards ceremony, is a radio transmitter worn by boat passengers; go overboard and the device stops the boat’s engine and sounds an alarm, allowing the passenger to return to and reboard their vessel.

CEO Anthony Viggiano said the idea came to him while on many solo fishing trips, wondering what he would do if he went overboard and his boat motored on without him.

“What about the millions of people out there that have had this problem,” he said, accepting his award. “We can help them and possibly save a few lives.”

“I’ve been making and manufacturing things in this state for over 40 years, and I know we can compete with anybody in the world. Autotether is committed to creating jobs, building wealth in our state, and sustaining Connecticut Yankee ingenuity.”

Solar manufacturer Dark Field Technologies, of Orange, was the other winner of the Most Promising category.

Awards were conferred in four other categories. East Hartford’s Centritec Seals was awarded Most Promising Green Tech Company of the Year; Biorasis, of Storrs, was given Most Promising Life Sciences Company; Most Promising Software Product went to Occams Resources; and SeeClickFix was given an award for Most Promising New Internet/New Media Company. Both of the latter two are New Haven companies.

The event was presented by the Connecticut Technology Council, the Angel Investor Forum and Crossroads Venture Group.

 

 STRATFORD — Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. made excess profit on parts it sold to the U.S. Army for UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters it bought at a lower price from the Pentagon’s primary supply agency, the Defense Department’s inspector general has reported.

According to Bloomberg Business News Sikorsky, a unit of Hartford-based United Technologies Corp., charged the Army $2,510.06 apiece for six seat assemblies it bought from the Defense Logistics Agency for $143.26 each — a mark-up of $14,201 or 1,652 percent, according to a 66-page audit. “The excessive prices charged have no relationship to Sikorksy’s standard markup,” concluded the audit.

 NEW HAVEN — Hamden’s Seldera, LLC and Mark My Media, LLC of Stamford have become associate members of the CTech@Science Park at Yale technology business incubator.

Seldera has prototyped technology to provide lightweight monitoring, sensing and control solutions for electricity management in small and medium-sized commercial buildings. Its technology, developed in part at Yale University, offers detailed data on electricity consumption and electric load characterization that can be used to enhance energy efficiency.

Mark My Media develops digital media software for those in the financial services industry.

Connecticut Innovations Inc, which manages Science Park, is offering associate memberships to accommodate more entrepreneurs at the CTech facility. Associate members can use the facility part-time.

 FAIRFIELD — Enough power for 80,000 homes will be generated by the solar panels built at General Electric’s (GE) first thin-film solar factory when production starts in 2012.

The $300 million plant will be the largest in the country and will bring 350 full-time jobs to that area. The facility is part of a $600 million investment in GE’s solar business. The first panels will be shipped to customers in 2013, according to the company.

GE also invested $58 million in an Italian greenhouse in Sardinia, which will use solar power to grow crops and provide 20 megawatts of power to Italy’s national electric grid. The country has a goal of providing 23 gigawatts of solar power by 2016.

The operation is expected to add 90 jobs to the economically stressed town of Villasor, and enough power will be generated to power 10,000 homes.

 FARMINGTON — Startup medical device company LambdaVision Inc. is developing an ion-mediated artificial retinal implant to restore sight in patients blinded by photoreceptor degeneration in the outer retina.

The protein-based implant aims specifically to correct vision to those affected by age-related macular degeneration and related diseases.

The company was recently given a $40,000 investment through the Pre-Seed Fund from Connecticut Innovations Inc. of Rocky Hill to conduct proof-of-concept studies. Matching funds were also given by University of Connecticut Research and Development Corporation.

The technology for the implant was developed by Robert Birge, a UConn biology and physical chemistry professor, who formed LambdaVision with his lab students in 2009.

Proof-of-concept studies for the retina will take place in collaboration with the Center for Innovative Visual Rehabilitation at the Boston VA Medical Center.

 DANBURY — Power plant manufacturer FuelCell Energy Inc. was given a $3 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop ways to use its Direct Fuel Cell (DFC) technology to separate carbon dioxide from the emissions of its existing coal-fired power plants.

FuelCell Energy’s (FCE) carbonate fuel cell technology separates CO2 during the power generation process, and the separation technology has been seen as a viable method of cleaning up harmful emissions from factories and refineries.

The federally funded three-year project will involve design, cost analysis and long-term testing of a multi-kilowatt DFC stack. If tests show that 90 percent of the CO2 from coal-fired power plant emissions can be captured within cost estimates, a DFC installation may take place at an existing coal power plant.

Efficiency and cost-effectiveness are goals, since coal is widely used all over the world as an energy source. DFC power plants emit few pollutants since they operate with no combustion.

FCE has more than 80 DFC clean power plants operational in more than 50 locations worldwide.