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Vadxx Energy

Akron Start-Up Eyes Global Expansion

Plastic waste doesn't have to end up in landfills thanks to technology developed by Vadxx Energy. 


  • Vadxx Energy builds its first commercial waste-to-energy plant in Akron.
  • The facility will divert 20,000 tons of waste plastics from landfills every year and turn them into 100,000 barrels of petroleum product.
  • An EPC partnership with Rockwell Automation is crucial to Vadxx's expansion.

A decade ago, petroleum geologist and geochemist Bill Ullom was browsing the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where he discovered an expired patent for a chemical process that promised to turn petroleum-based waste back into crude oil.

Ullom refined the technology called thermal depolymerization and, together with businessman Jim Garrett, founded Vadxx Energy.

Fast forward to 2014 and Vadxx has become one of the most promising start-ups in the waste-to-energy industry. The NorTech cluster member recently bought five acres of city-owned land in Akron and broke ground for its first commercial-scale plant. The 20,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled to come online in the spring of 2015, will recycle almost 20,000 tons of waste plastics a year and turn them into approximately 100,000 barrels of petroleum product. Revenues are projected to be above $11 million a year.

As a trusted advisor for Vadxx, NorTech:
Introduced Vadxx to Rockwell Automation
Authored a white paper supporting Vadxx's technology
Connected Vadxx to leaders of industry trade organizations
Spoke in support of Vadxx at public meetings

Vadxx has operated a 1/50th-scale pilot plant for several years. It recently secured funding from Liberation Capital, a private equity firm, to build its first full-scale plant as well as others.

Vadxx has enlisted the help of fellow advanced energy cluster member Rockwell Automation to grow its business. Thanks to the funding from Liberation Capital, it recently awarded a $15 million contract to Rockwell to engineer, procure and construct its first plant.

"Vadxx is focused on implementing our first commercial unit in Akron successfully as an important first step toward global expansion," Vadxx CEO Jim Garrett said. "Liberation Capital, Rockwell Automation, feedstock suppliers, and other partners will play key roles in our growth and success."

Rockwell is the world's largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., it employs about 22,000 people serving customers in more than 80 countries.

"This win is significant for us because it demonstrates our sustained effort to become an industry leader in alternative energy solutions, helping to preserve the world's natural resources and promoting a cleaner environment," said Terry Gebert, vice president and general manager of Rockwell Automation Global Solutions. "Our team is helping Vadxx reduce risk, shorten its time to market, and expand to other global regions."

Rockwell is one of several large anchor companies in Northeast Ohio that NorTech connects with promising, smaller businesses in the region's emerging industries. Giving small companies such as Vadxx access to these global market leaders to potentially become part of their supply chain is crucial to their success.

"Rockwell Automation strengthens our technology by providing complete design, build and commissioning of our new plant," said Jeremy DeBenedictis, vice president of operations at Vadxx. "We'll have a process technology solution that will enable us to rapidly deploy our technology globally."

Vadxx has been a cluster member since joining NorTech's Waste & Biomass to Energy Roadmap Working Group early on. Rockwell joined the cluster later seeing value in connecting with new developments in the region's advanced energy industry.

Through several NorTech events and meetings, Vadxx and Rockwell connected and held early-stage discussions around a potential partnership. NorTech then recruited Rockwell to have a significant presence at its Advanced Energy B2B Conference & Expo, where Rockwell and Vadxx began serious discussions about a partnership. In November 2011 the two companies first announced that Rockwell would provide services that allowed Vadxx to scale its solutions.

NorTech has also been a trusted advisor and public supporter of Vadxx. NorTech authored a white paper in support of Vadxx's technology that was presented to the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., connected Vadxx to leaders of industry trade organizations and answered questions about Vadxx's technology at public meetings.

In addition to NorTech, MAGNET played a critical role in helping Vadxx accomplish its goals. It gave the company technical and logistical help, which provided Vadxx with a credible model to present to potential partners, funders and investors.

The support of a global market leader as well as regional economic development organizations like NorTech and MAGNET is one reason why Vadxx is building its business in Northeast Ohio.

"From a pure business perspective, we couldn't put Vadxx in any other location in the world," Garrett said. "Now, we are going to try to pay it back with jobs and being a good corporate citizen."

Did You Know?

  • Northeast Ohio's expertise in water remediation and control continues to spur new technologies, businesses and jobs. Learn More »

  • Our Cluster Model was recognized by the White House, the Brookings Institution, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the State Science Technology Institute and the International Economic Development Council. Learn More »

  • SportSafe is a new company taking advantage of breakthroughs in flexible electronics in a unique way. The start-up is working with the Cleveland Clinic to develop intelligent mouth guards measuring forces from sports impacts that are transferred to the brain. Learn More »
  • Clusters are "geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers, service providers and associated institutions in a particular sector." Learn More »

  • Our matchmaking event opened the door to potential business with a multi-billion dollar anchor company for three members of the flexible electronics cluster. Learn More »

  • Five core competencies in the flexible electronics cluster have the potential to bring over 3,000 jobs to Northeast Ohio by 2019. Learn More »

  • Clusters respond to the needs of an entire region and have a powerful impact on multiple companies. Learn More »

  • Clusters create new job opportunities and transition from unemployment or underemployment to high-skilled, high-wage jobs. Learn More »

  • Lake Erie is one of the best examples of ecosystem recovery in the world. Learn More »

  • Vadxx Energy has enlisted the help of fellow advanced energy cluster member Rockwell Automation to grow its business. It recently awarded a $15 million contract to Rockwell to engineer, procure and construct its first plant. Learn More »
  • Clusters encourage interactions and synergies among firms that lead to regional growth. Learn More »

  • Design Flux Technologies is developing the world's first Intelligent Energy Exchange – a unified power management system that completely eliminates the need for traditional battery chargers, inverters and management systems. Learn More »

  • quasar energy group's anaerobic digestion facility turns organic waste into electricity and compressed natural gas (CNG). Learn More »

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  • Amplified Wind Solutions cutting-edge technology produces up to six times more electricity than traditional wind turbines. Learn More »

  • Since June 2010, our advanced energy cluster members have grown by more than 600 jobs. Learn More »

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  • Kent-based AlphaMicron has developed the world's only liquid crystal film that provides electronic tint (e-Tint®) on demand. With the push of a button, e-Tint technology gives the operator instantaneous control over the tint of his or her eyewear. Learn More »
  • Since June 2010, our cluster members have added over 800 jobs to the region. Learn More »


  • Northeast Ohio is home to more than 500 companies and organizations engaged in the advanced energy industry. Learn More »

  • Clusters engage and stabilize diverse communities by re-purposing idle assets and human capital.
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  • We developed and launched the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo), in partnership with The Cleveland Foundation, City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties. Learn More »

  • The flexible electronics cluster is rooted in the world-renowned, breakthrough work of Kent State University, The University of Akron and Case Western Reserve University. Learn More »

  • Advanced energy, flexible electronics and water technologies have the potential to bring over 15,000 jobs to Northeast Ohio by 2020. Learn More »

  • Our roadmaps identified $50 billion in market opportunities for Northeast Ohio's advanced energy industry and $42 billion in market opportunities for the region's flexible electronics industry. Learn More »

  • 16 segments in the advanced energy cluster have the potential to bring over 9,500 jobs to Northeast Ohio by 2020. Learn More »

  • What sets us apart from other economic development organizations is the fact that we provide comprehensive, industry-specific services that accelerate the commercialization of new products. Learn More »

  • We serve four distinct audiences: small and medium businesses; large anchor customers; colleges and universities; and government agencies.
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  • Clusters give companies greater ease of access to pools of skilled employees, specialized infrastructure, technological knowledge, investment capital and funding opportunities. Learn More »

  • Eco-friendly printed batteries; a face shield that turns from light to dark with the push of a button; paint that lights up when electric current runs through it. These are just three examples of ground-breaking products featuring flexible electronics technology from Northeast Ohio. Learn More »
  • RES Polyflow's technology produces high-quality crude oil from end-of-life plastic and rubber waste. Learn More »

  • Three sectors in the water technologies cluster have the potential to bring over 3,500 jobs to Northeast Ohio by 2019. Learn More »