COVID-19 Update: New Tech from INFICON Offers ‘Reliable’ EV Battery-cell Testing, Conquer Accelerator Announces First Grand Rapids Cohort, and More

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
map of Michigan coronavirus cases
Courtesy of Bridge, as of Oct. 6

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

New Tech from INFICON Offers ‘Reliable’ EV Battery-cell Testing
New technology from Detroit’s INFICON soon will allow automakers and battery suppliers to reliably test critically important electric-vehicle battery cells for the first time, the company says.

Faulty battery cells can dramatically shorten battery life, increase warranty costs, affect customer satisfaction and damage product reputation, as well as create safety and drivability problems.

Billions of lithium-ion battery cells are produced annually for use in electric, hybrid-electric, and autonomous vehicles, as well as for medical devices and a variety of consumer electronics products. Depending on cell type, 5 percent or more of those cells may have undetected leaks.

INFICON’s leak-detection systems can reliably and accurately test all types of lithium-ion battery cells for the first time – the single most important leak-detection development in the past 10 years, according to the company. Developed at the company’s research facilities in Cologne, Germany, they also incorporate sensor technology from INFICON’s North American headquarters in Syracuse, N.Y.

Based on mass-spectrometer technology, the company’s new leak detectors are able to identify dangerous leaks 1,000 times smaller than currently possible.

“The rapid detection of even the smallest battery-cell leaks is absolutely essential to achieving extended service life and meeting necessary safety requirements,” says Daniel Weizig, research and development director for leak detection for INFICON in Cologne. “The use of industry-first spectrometer technology, for example, can help assure an extended EV battery life of up to 10 years or more.”

INFICON’s new process will, for the first time, allow automakers and battery suppliers to accurately test battery cells already filled with electrolyte. The cells are placed into a vacuum chamber connected to an INFICON ELT3000 leak-detection unit with a mass spectrometer for testing.

The INFICON equipment can be combined with a variety of automation technologies such as high-speed robotic assembly processes. It also is available for use in research and development laboratories.

Conquer Accelerator Announces First Grand Rapids Cohort
East Lansing’s Conquer Accelerator has announced its first-ever Grand Rapids season and fall 2020 cohort. The 10-week accelerator has selected five teams for its Grand Rapids program: Airway Innovations, Building Catalyst, FirstIgnite, Lawnbot, and The Patient Co.

“Conquer Accelerator helps entrepreneurs successfully build and launch a viable company,” says Thomas Stewart, program manager at Conquer Accelerator. “I think the Grand Rapids cohort is a great representation of the talent in the region and I’m looking forward to helping push these businesses to the next level.”

Conquer Accelerator is a collaborative effort made possible through partnerships with parent organization Michigan State University Foundation and its subsidiaries Spartan Innovations, Red Cedar Ventures, Michigan Rise, and University Corporate Research Park as well as sponsorships from Foster Swift, Axios HR, and Spectrum Health.

The accelerator program supports rising startups by providing $20,000 in funding, access to more than 40 mentors, access to follow-on funding, and other resources. With collaboration between the Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority (Grand Rapids LDFA) and the Conquer Accelerator team, the program aims to expand community and corporate outreach as well as support for startups in the area.

Conquer Accelerator Grand Rapids runs virtually from Sept. 14 to Nov. 20. For more information, visit here.

Toyota and Hino Truck to Develop Class 8 Fuel Cell Electric Truck for North America
Toyota Motor North America and Hino Trucks have agreed to jointly develop a Class 8 fuel cell electric truck for the North American market.

The companies say they will leverage the newly developed Hino XL Series chassis with Toyota’s proven fuel cell technology to deliver exceptional capability without harmful emissions. This collaboration expands upon the existing effort to develop a 25-ton FCET for the Japanese market. The initial demonstration vehicle is expected to arrive in the first half of 2021.

“A fuel-cell-powered version of the Hino XL Series is a win-win for both customers and the community. It will be quiet, smooth and powerful while emitting nothing but water,” says Tak Yokoo, senior executive engineer at Toyota Research and Development. “Toyota’s 20 plus years of fuel cell technology combined with Hino’s heavy-duty truck experience will create an innovative and capable product.”

Glenn Ellis, senior vice president of customer experience at Hino, says, “Expanding upon our proud heritage of the Hino powertrain, Toyota fuel cell technology offers our customers a commercially viable, extended range, zero emissions vehicle in the near term. Hino shares a common focus with Toyota when it comes to durability, reliability, and innovation with the customer at the center of design which makes this collaboration a game changer.”

Southfield’s Angstrom Group Acquires Vantec Inc.
Angstrom Group in Southfield has acquired Vantec Inc. and started operating out of Vantec’s former Iowa and Nebraska facilities on Sept. 21.

Vantec joins the Angstrom Group family of companies servicing the global automotive a ondustrial markets and continue to provide a stable and expanding platform for its customers.

“The acquisition of Vantec Inc. fits the Angstrom Group model and continues to build on a strategy of establishing Angstrom as a vertically integrated company and the industries one-stop-shop location for world class automotive and industrial components and assemblies,” says Nagesh Palakurthi, president and CEO of Angstrom Group. “We are confident that this addition will continue to strengthen and complement our value proposition to our customers.”

Vantec processes a large number of products and plastic components for a broad base of diverse customers. Industries include HVAC products, beverage dispensing equipment, vehicle parts and accessories, and construction and home products.

Automation Alley’s Nov. 9-10 Integr8 Conference Creates Opportunities
Automation Alley, Michigan’s Troy-based Industry 4.0 knowledge center, is conducting its fourth annual Integr8 conference Nov. 9-10 virtually.

“The demand for Personal Protection Equipment thrust an emergency opportunity at companies who could pivot their resources to create PPE and serve the greater good,” says Tom Kelly, executive director and CEO of Automation Alley. “That was a benefit of Industry 4.0 technologies that we hadn’t necessarily highlighted before. Yet companies with 3-D printers, robotics, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence capabilities were all of a sudden helping us stay healthy and safely return to our workplaces and manufacturing plants.

“Now, we are seeing not only the societal benefits of these technologies, but the opportunity for manufacturers and tech companies to be rewarded for investing in and mastering Industry 4.0 with lucrative grants, contracts, and new connections. In some regards, I think this year’s virtual Integr8 conference can be a celebration of what we have accomplished – and a pep rally for what we still need to do.”

Highlights of the conference agenda include a variety of technology-focused breakout sessions, World Economic Forum Advanced Manufacturing Hub roundtables, a virtual exhibit hall showcasing Industry 4.0 technologies, and one-on-one matchmaking opportunities with up to four companies.

Keynote presentations will be delivered by Industry 4.0 champion Irene Petrick, senior director of industrial innovation in the Internet of Things Group at global tech giant Intel Corp., and entrepreneur, philanthropist and Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell, who also is founder and CEO of industrial AI software company Uptake.

JVS Human Services to Host Virtual Strictly Business Fundraising Event Oct. 15
JVS Human Services in Southfield will conducts its 23rd annual Strictly Business event virtually via Zoom on Oct. 15 from noon to 12:30 p.m.

The event will bring together prominent business leaders who support the agency’s mission to break barriers to employment because jobs transform lives.

The program will honor two individuals, nominated by JVS Human Services, as Employees of the Year: Gwynevere Coles and Tyler Feil.

Coles retired as a lieutenant after 31 years in the Detroit Police Department. With the help of JVS, she secured a new job as a gate agent for Delta Airlines and participates in an ongoing JVS Human Services support program called Career Club.

Feil has both a visual and hearing disability and was referred to JVS by the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons, to discover what jobs might interest him and be a good fit for his skills. He now works in the stock room of the Salvation Army store in Keego Harbor.

“As we navigate the workplace during the pandemic, the services we offer to metro Detroiters looking for employment, whatever their background, age, skill set or disability, has never been more vital,” says Paul Blatt, CEO of JVS Human Services. “For more than 20 years, Strictly Business has been an important fundraiser for our agency, as we connect job seekers to those opportunities that could change their lives, creating a stronger community in the process.”

For details about sponsorship and tickets, visit here or contact Sandy Schuster at

YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit Permanently Closing North Oakland Family YMCA
The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit has closed the North Oakland YMCA in Auburn Hills to help minimize financial losses and to generate operating revenue to sustain the organization.

“The North Oakland Family YMCA has served the community for 16 years and now its operating costs significantly exceed its membership revenues,” says Helene Weir, president and CEO of the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. “This is hard, we never want to close any of our YMCAs, they serve as valuable centers of community, however, we cannot ignore that we were closed for six months and we simply do not have the resources to subsidize underperforming operations.”

Weir says that the Y is closing the North Oakland Family YMCA building, but the Y is not abandoning the community. Members of the North Oakland Family YMCA also will be given free memberships to access open YMCAs for the remainder of 2020 at any of the Y’s seven other locations in Birmingham, Detroit, Downriver, Farmington, Macomb, Milford, and Royal Oak.

“We will continue to feed children and provide regular opportunities for children to safely engage in outdoor play, along with a host of other social and educational youth development efforts, through our:  Y Nourish, Y Positive Play Initiatives, Y Arts, and Metro Youth YMCA career and college prep programs,” says Lynette Simmons, vice president of operations for community initiatives for the YMCA.

Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities Launches Business Edition of Narcan Training
The Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities in Troy is launching Save a Life – Business Edition, which is organizational team training and education on how to recognize and administer Intra-Nasal Narcan in the event of an accidental opiate/opioid drug overdose.

Prior to COVID-19, the alliance started to develop the business edition of this training program, which launched as Community Narcan Training program in November 2017. Since its inception, more than 5,000 individuals and small business owners have been trained by the alliance on the signs and symptoms of an accidental opiate overdose.

As a part of Save a Life – Business Edition, the alliance will perform a business risk assessment to determine the amount of Narcan training kits that will be needed per business, based on best practices. It will customize training for supervisors, shift leaders, and human resources personnel. The alliance will deliver interactive Narcan training using best practices and provide consulting for process management, implementation, and maintenance/records management for businesses.

“Since COVID began, we have delivered more than 53 virtual Narcan trainings and trained more than 600 individuals in our community who are now educated, equipped, and empowered to save lives,” says Julie Brenner, president and CEO of the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities. “Most importantly, we know we have saved at least six lives due to these trainings. We are excited to extend our services to the business community so we can save even more lives.”

For more information, visit here or call 248-221-7101.