Breaking Barriers in the Battery Industry

November 10, 2016

Christina Lampe-Onnerud, CEO and Chairman of Cadenza Innovation and featured speaker at a recent Yale Women Innovators event, has a history of breaking barriers.

Born in Sweden, she completed a yearlong Post-Doctoral Fellowship at MIT, where she entered the university’s oldest startup in technological consulting. One of the company’s achievements was inventing additives to fossil fuels to lower emissions. Lampe-Onnerud described it as “a company run by academics with an academic tradition and externally funded by investors.” But as a graduate student and a woman, as well as the youngest manager, she felt her voice was oppressed in the largely male-dominated workforce.

After the U.S. government discovered problems with the battery products being used by some of the businesses Lampe-Onnerud was working with, she decided to resign and start her own company providing safe batteries. “I was sick of lying to the public,” she said.

Her mission was to create a long-lasting battery that was clean and safe. Lampe-Onnerud’s new company, Boston Power, soon climbed to 6th place on the vendor list for leading laptop seller Hewlett Packard. They later became a vendor for Lenovo.

Lampe-Onnerud described the battery market as one ripe for innovation. “This is an opportunity for people who care to change the world,” she said. Her current mission is to solve a three-vector problem: high energy density, high safety and low costs.

She mentioned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones which were bursting into flames due to overheating, forcing a massive recall. “We are obsessed with short-term gains,” she said.

During the financial crisis, Lampe-Onnerud moved from Boston to Beijing with nine operating companies in tow, and began to make use of affordable Chinese factories.

“I believe I have helped clean up some of the battery industry and take away some of the most toxic materials in the universe,” she said, adding: “I want to democratize energy. I see an enormous opportunity with the two trends – portable power revolution on smartphones, but also the revolution of electric transport.”

The Yale Women Innovators Series is held at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (254 Elm St., 3rd Floor) on Tuesday mornings. It is open to Yale women students, alumni, faculty and staff interested in entrepreneurship and innovation at any level.