From the Worcester T&G: Grant helps bring cutting-edge technology to market

by James Chisholm

Grant helps bring cutting-edge technology to market

WEST BOYLSTON — Coventry Associates Inc. was one of the 17 Massachusetts companies to receive grant funding from the MassVentures START program, which recently announced more than $3 million in awards for a variety of cutting-edge concepts in order to bring them from creative idea to commercial market.

Founder and President Craig Gardner said that the $200,000 Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant will be used to market his patented Eccentric Positioning System (EPS) to end-users and machine builders in order to raise the funds needed to grow the company.

The START Program is a federal program now in its fifth year that funds innovations in small companies, defined as any company with fewer than 500 employees.

The initial $100,000 grant Coventry Associates received in 2015 allowed Mr. Gardner to design, build and test the patented industrial robot, otherwise know as the EPS, by working with German research and development nonprofit Fraunhofer.

To date, he has secured private funding from local companies Timken and Saint-Gobain, in addition to SBIR contracts totaling $1.4 million from the Defense Logistics Agency, which is part for the federal government’s Department of Defense.

“It began as an idea,” he said of the technology, which allows for precision grinding of machinery used in ball-bearing technology to the millionth of an inch. That idea was actually born in 2003 of a collaboration between Mr. Gardner and his longtime friend and business associate Ed Camp, who upon his death in 2009 had yet to see the concept come to life in the form of the EPS.

Using a pivoting system involving three different axes, the EPS allows for grinding at angles — along with a tool-sharpening mechanism that occurs after each grind — that standard machinery cannot access in one pass, saving time and money.

“There were plenty of people who said ‘Once you get it working, give us a call,’ ” he said. “And that’s where we are.”

With more than 20,000 machines in the world devoted to the manufacturing of bearings and 10 percent of those machines wearing out annually, Mr. Gardner said, he expects the EPS to be the wave of the future in this specific domain. He estimates $200 million in sales in the coming years as he grows into full operating potential and hopes to set up factory space in the Central Massachusetts area.

“MassVentures helps companies capitalize on their SBIR funds and arm them with the capital, experience, mentoring and network they need to transition to high-growth companies,” said MassVentures President Jerry Bird.

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