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Sparkz Resource

Energy Startup Plans R&D Facility in West Virginia

The following article was published by WVNews on April 12, 2022.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — A startup company plans to open a research and development center in West Virginia, according to a press release.

SPARKZ, an energy company developing lithium-ion batteries, said it plans to partner with the United Mine Workers of America to recruit and train former coal miners for research and manufacturing positions.

The company, which said it is in the final stages of site selection for its facility and expects construction to begin later this year, plans to hire up to 350 employees.

“We are thrilled to play a role in the creation of a domestic battery supply chain. We must end our reliance on cobalt and China’s dominance in the global battery supply chain,” said Sanjiv Malhotra, founder and CEO of SPARKZ.

“We are delighted to make West Virginia our home and aid the state’s transition from its roots in coal mining to the new energy economy. We’re grateful to Vantage Ventures for helping take us home to the country roads of West Virginia.”

Vantage Ventures, an initiative of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University, helped SPARKZ secure financing and select a space for the research and development facility, said Executive Director Sarah Biller.

“Supporting entrepreneurs who are advancing the fields of surface transportation, sustainable energy and advanced manufacturing has been a longtime goal,” she said. “This remarkable announcement is further proof that our efforts to leverage West Virginia’s strengths to create a sustainable startup infrastructure that benefits our state is making real progress.”

According to information on the company’s website, SPARKZ was founded in 2019 and has its headquarters in Livermoore, California.

The company announced its plans at a press conference in Charleston featuring U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Mulhern Granholm, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., West Virginia University President Dr. E. Gordon Gee, Marshall University President Brad Smith, and UMWA International Secretary-Treasurer Brian Sanson.

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Founder & CEO

Dr. Sanjiv Malhotra

Dr. Sanjiv Malhotra is the founder and CEO of Sparkz—the battery start-up reinventing the energy supply chain.

 

Malhotra has been a leader in the energy sector for nearly three decades as a founder, investor and executive. Most recently, he served as the inaugural director for the Energy Investor Center at the U.S Department of Energy (DOE), serving under both Democratic and Republican administrations.

 

At DOE, Malhotra led the Obama Administration’s initiative to boost public-private partnerships to accelerate the commercialization of technologies developed in national research centers like Oak Ridge National Labs.

 

Malhotra was recruited to the Department of Energy after a successful exit of Oorja Protonics—the world leader in methanol fuel cells—which he founded and led as CEO for 10 years. Oorja raised $50 Million in equity financing from leading VCs such as Sequoia, DAG Ventures, Artis Capital and others during his tenure. He boosted Oorja’s revenue and profitability growth, while expanding operations globally in Japan, China, South Africa, Mexico, and India.

 

Oorja was acquired in 2014 by the Private Equity firm MinXing Growth Fund.

 

As an investor and consultant, Malhotra has worked at leading venture capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers as an advisor on clean energy and advanced materials.

 

Earlier in his career, Malhotra led the engineering and product development team at H Power, a pioneer in hydrogen fuel cells. As part of the management team, he managed the successful IPO, which raised more than $100 million in August 2000.

 

He began his career as a post-doctoral fellow at the renowned Lawrence Berkeley National Labs on electrochemical storage systems. Dr. Malhotra has authored seven patents and more than 40 publications in various fields of energy storage technology and materials. He holds a PhD in chemical engineering and an M.B.A from University of Iowa.