Tata Backs Sun Catalytix in $9.5M B Round

10/7/10

Sun Catalytix has found a new and deep-pocketed investor. Tata, a global conglomerate that owns the largest auto company in India, has led the Cambridge, MA, startup’s $9.5 million Series B funding round, the companies report today. The round, which included return backer Polaris Venture Partners, will fund further development of the startup’s catalyst, which helps produce energy from renewable sources.

The startup, which had previously raised at least $3 million, was build around co-founder and MIT professor Daniel Nocera’s discovery of a process that uses water, electricity, and a low-cost catalyst to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen could be used to power fuel cells, engines, and energy-storage systems, according to the company. (Bob Metcalfe, a general partner at Polaris, gave us an early interview about the company last November.)

Nocera, in a prepared statement, said: “The funding secured in this round will enable Sun Catalytix to continue to move its technology forward and to deliver prototypes.”

Tata puts significant financial firepower behind Sun Catalyix. The conglomerate, which owns IT, automotive, energy, and many other businesses, generates about $70 billion in annual revenue. Ralf Speth, CEO of Tata’s Jaguar Land Rover unit, has grabbed a seat on Sun Catalytix’s board of directors.

Tata’s investment also has potential strategic importance to Sun Catalytix. The startup says that its technology could be used as a way to store energy produced from solar, wind, or other renewable sources. Tata owns solar and other energy companies. Sun Catalytix says that its technology might also be able to produce hydrogen fuel for internal combustion engines, of which Tata Motors uses plenty.

Amir Nashat, founding CEO of Sun Catalytix and a general partner at Polaris, was not immediately available this morning.

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