I'm Kenan Sahin and I serve as President of CAMX Power. It all began with TIAX LLC, a company I founded in 2002 to implement a technology and business model cluster formed out of decades of personal experience in academia and industry: to mature early-stage technologies as a loosely connected group to be de-risked, IP-protected, and scale-up ready or scaled-up for manufacture and sales by established companies.
In 2002, the landscape was choking with innovation backlog but with hampered channels to move innovations to implementations. Established companies did not then, and even now do not want to take on early-stage risky technologies with questionable IP. Hence the timeliness of the TIAX model to convert innovations from early-stage to production readiness for the established companies. I chose the uncommon model of using my personal resources to pursue, unfettered, a long-term “patient” strategy that spanned 15 years.
Of the several technology clusters feasible with the staff I had hired, for me the most important was electrochemical energy storage. Having just completed my vice presidency at Bell Laboratories, the huge disparity between electronics (reduced to a pin head) and the power source (size of a turtle) was glaring. Also, my passion has been for mitigating greenhouse gases: with 25% fossil fuels used in transportation, electrification of the drive train seemed critical, either with fuel cells or lithium-ion batteries. I banked on batteries and placed the biggest investment on the cathode material, the most critical and complex component.
With a dedicated team operating as the Advanced Battery Materials and Design division of TIAX, we pursued high-nickel cathode materials to achieve high energy density, so that a vehicle could travel at least 200 miles on a single charge and portable devices could run longer. We named the evolving product platform CAM-7®.
With the application environment in mind, we installed and matured ancillary capabilities: a cell prototyping facility to demonstrate high-performance cells, cathode material synthesis scale-up in a 50 ton per year capacity pilot plant, a deep understanding of each component in the Li-ion cell, as well as internationally recognized expertise in battery safety (which resulted in us developing some core safety technologies).
Our development strategy has focused on making incremental improvements rather than searching for big leaps. From 2005 to 2012, CAM-7 went through many iterations of sampling by some of the key players in the industry. In 2014, with our CAM-7 product platform sufficiently developed, I launched the Advanced Battery Materials and Design division as CAMX Power, an independent company with exceptional facilities and with exceptional staff possessing very deep knowledge.
After the launch of CAMX Power, we intensified discussions with potential manufacturing partners in line with our core strategy of providing early stage technologies to the markets as de-risked, IP-protected and scale-up ready for established companies to make and sell. As we had predicted as early as 2005, markets had shifted to high nickel cathode materials. Also, as we had anticipated a decade ago, safety concerns about high nickel cathodes had subsided; safety is now being viewed as a system challenge for engineering to tackle. With CAM-7 being tested as the highest performance high nickel platform, markets for us had arrived after fifteen years of patience and perseverance.
In 2016, two key suppliers to the automotive industry ‒ BASF and Johnson Matthey ‒ each took a non-exclusive license to make and sell CAM-7 and both are rapidly gearing up. This transition to production partners marks the success of our core strategy, with respect to the CAM-7 platform. See the press releases in the News section.
Now, as Part B of our strategy, we are opening our doors for broadly interacting with a wide range of clients to share, on a mutually business-beneficial basis, our extensive facilities, deep knowledge and exceptional staff in this fast evolving Li-ion battery industry, with a product portfolio of two clusters: Structured Service Products (SSPs) and Technology Products (TPs).
In SSPs, the focus is on services. They are “structured” in that they are based on a contractual framework, work methodology, articulated staging deliverables and envelop pricing. All this is designed to make the engagement process quick, efficient, and effective.
In TPs, as a conventional product, we have our high-nickel cathode material CAM-7, which will be available from us as standard grades or adapted to our client’s requirements. We can supply small quantities ranging from several kilograms to multiple tons from our pilot plant. For larger quantities of CAM-7, we will refer our clients to our manufacturing partners. As to other TPs, we have “kernels” at various stages of development with IP available for either collaborative development or for joint development.
Even when a company offers excellent products, the processes and procedures for procurement and engagement have to be client focused and client-friendly. One of the biggest obstacles, as well as the enabler, is dealing with pre-existing and post-development IP. With my decades of experience in academia and business that has included my own startups as well my years at Bell Labs, I have developed client-empowering contract and IP models which are now central to CAMX Power’s approach to structuring business relationships. A cornerstone is to always start with mutual business objectives and then frame the terms and conditions to be subservient to and supportive of those objectives.
The most critical and important part of our organization is our staff who are second to none. Most of us have been working together since 2002. Across decades I have experimented with models of structuring an organization both for collegiality and for achievement, as well as for personal growth. I have implemented several staff-development concepts like situational leadership, centering performance reviews on strengths with a framework I developed called GISTT (Goals, Interests, Strengths, Talent, Training) which focuses on strengths rather than the traditional strengths and weaknesses.
Even as we seek the highest levels of achievement from each other, we aim to contribute to each colleague’s growth and development while maintaining a culture of learning, teaching and balance. I am the self-appointed police of balance: demand hard work with solid results but in a balanced way so that each one of us has time for our other pursuits including family, friends, extracurricular activities and personal growth.
To maintain these values, I am deeply involved in recruiting and hiring. Our hiring is centered around talent, excellence, potential and passion following a model I had developed previously, AAWE (Aptitude, Attitude—positive and collaborative, Willingness to learn no matter how knowledgeable, Experience as the extra). The typical industrial model starts with the E for experience.