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Alumni Spotlight: An Interview with Drs. Feng Lin and Ray Xu, Co-founders of Fermi Energy Inc.

Alumni Spotlight: An Interview with Drs. Feng Lin and Ray Xu, Co-founders of Fermi Energy Inc.

Posted on: June 5, 2024

Two Blacksburg-based battery scientists are fundamentally disrupting the battery industry with revolutionary cathode technology. Drs. Feng Lin and Ray Xu co-founded Fermi Energy, Inc. specializing in the development of large-scale production of low-cost, sustainable cathodes.

As electric vehicle ownership rises, so does the need for the batteries that power them. And that’s exactly where Fermi’s co-founders saw an opportunity to improve human flourishing. The revolutionary products they’re developing at Fermi Energy cut cathode costs by up to 50% by leveraging innovative materials selection and breakthrough processing technologies. This substantial cost reduction is aimed at facilitating a more widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the U.S., while also bolstering the domestic supply chain.

We’re continually inspired by the vision and work of our entrepreneurial alumni and Drs. Lin and Xu are no exception. We were thrilled to connect with them after their 2022 graduation to hear more about their experience as scientific entrepreneurs in the Roanoke-Blacksburg innovation ecosystem. 

Where is your alma mater and what did you study?

Dr. Feng Lin earned his Ph.D. in materials science at the Colorado School of Mines while Dr. Ray Xu earned his Ph.D. in chemistry at Virginia Tech 

Tell us the origin story of your company. What inspired you?

Fermi Energy was founded with the singular purpose of accelerating the pace of decarbonization through the development of advanced battery technologies. Our inspiration stems from a deep desire to improve human lives and promote equity across the globe. 

From our inception, we have been dedicated to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in energy technology. Our team of experts is constantly exploring new materials, designs, and processes to develop batteries that are not only more efficient but also more environmentally friendly.

How did you choose RAMP as your accelerator? 

We were recommended by VTIP colleagues at Virginia Tech. We learned that RAMP offers invaluable resources and knowledge tailored specifically for early-stage startups. Their comprehensive programs and mentorship are designed to equip companies like ours with the essential skills and insights needed to succeed. This was precisely the kind of support we needed at the inception of Fermi Energy.

What has it meant for your company to have participated in RAMP? 

Participating in RAMP has been transformative for Fermi Energy. It has opened up a world of connections and resources that were previously beyond our reach. The program has provided us with access to a rich network of industry leaders, investors, and fellow entrepreneurs, greatly enhancing our ability to navigate the early stages of our startup journey.

Who are some Roanoke-Blacksburg mentors that have impacted you?

We were fortunate to have wonderful mentors in our process of commercialization. We’ve benefited from the guidance of Eddie Amos, former Chief Transformation Officers at TORC; Lisa Garcia, former RAMP director; Mike Abbot RAMP Lead Instructor; and James Ramey, Managing Sirector of VTC Ventures.

What is one obstacle in the founding of your company that you’re most proud of overcoming?

It was difficult to establish an initial financial footing, but we persevered to create our company. 

What piece of advice would you give early-stage tech/bitotech entrepreneurs? 

It’s important not to get too in your head about things. Keep your eyes open. Do it before thinking about failure. 

Tell us a fun fact about you!

Ray can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under one minute. His record is 37 seconds. Feng realized he could jump very high in his thirties and currently regrets that he did not practice that in his teens, otherwise he could dunk. 

What else would you like us know?

We are humbled to be selected for the 2024 Rising Star Award in Tech at the RBTC TechNite!

RAMP is committed to connecting technology and life science entrepreneurs to the resources they need to advance their technology and further development through our three levels of business accelerators. Our flagship accelerator, RAMP-in-Residence offers two cohorts annually, once in the fall and one in the spring. Ready to join the next cohort? Apply now.

Want to keep up with the latest from Fermi Energy? Be sure to follow them on LinkedIn for news and updates.

RAMP and RBTC are part of the Verge alliance, established to grow the region’s innovation economy, technology and life sciences sectors, and the supporting professional communities. It aligns the strengths and programming efforts of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC) and the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP). Verge serves GO Virginia Region 2 and works to form collaborations with government, business, academia, and other organizations to advance the region and grow a thriving innovation economy.