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Venture unit may give A123 a fresh start

The Waltham battery maker A123 Systems LLC is launching a new division that will allow energy storage start-ups access to the company’s technology, lab space, and expertise, as well to as financial support, in exchange for pieces of the smaller firms.

The company unveiled the division, called A123 Venture Technologies, at the Knowledge Foundation’s Next Generation Batteries conference in Boston Wednesday.

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The aim is to accelerate the commercialization and adoption of advanced batteries, while positioning A123 to remain a leader in the field, according to the company.

Mujeeb Ijaz, chief technology officer, said the venture technologies division stems from a new philosophy at A123, which was bought out of bankruptcy in January by the North American arm of the Chinese auto parts conglomerate Wanxiang Group.

By collaborating with other companies, A123 hopes to take advantage of past investments to move itself and the industry forward, Ijaz said.

“We can really help breakthrough technologies get a foothold and give them access to markets,” Ijaz said. “As we rebirth the company, we have to find ways in which we create sustainable business models. We can’t have investments without returns.”

A123 Venture Technologies will be based mainly in Waltham, where the company has about 90,000 square feet of prototype and testing lab space, Ijaz said. Additional work will be done in Hopkinton, where A123 conducts battery testing, and in Romulus, Mich., where it does powder research. A123 also has manufacturing space in Livonia, Mich.

While A123 Venture Technologies may provide some financial assistance to the start-ups it partners with, Ijaz said doling out money won’t be the division’s main objective.

“We don’t believe that venture capital by itself is the answer that developers in this field need,” he said. “We’re bringing more than that — we have experience and we can help guide their growth.”

Erin Ailworth can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.
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