Plastics Innovator Recognized with WBD Award

In December River Falls-based Interfacial Solutions was recognized as one of the state’s top innovators at the Wisconsin Business Development Awards banquet held in Madison. For Interfacial Solutions founder Dr. Jeffrey Cernohous, the Wisconsin Business Innovation Award is a fitting tribute.

 “My business is completely about innovation. We are working on developing new products and businesses for our customers, primarily in the plastics industry, day in and day out,” says Cernohous. “It is nice to be recognized for it.”

In business since 2003, Interfacial Solutions expanded in 2010 adding space and employees. In 2012 it formed a spin-off company Magma Flooring and Composites, geared at making green alternatives to Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), the third most widely produced plastic, for the building construction and flooring markets. Today more than 50 people are employed between the two businesses, occupying nearly 65,000 square feet in the River Falls area. Interfacial has authored more than 60 issued patents.

In July 2012 Interfacial secured a $150,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation to advance its deTerra® biobased polymers technology, which improves the properties and performance of Polylactic Acid (PLA), a bio-based, bio-degradable plastic that can be put into industrial compost and will dissolve away within 45 days with no harmful bi-products. “This grant [SBIR Phase I] was about leveraging that technology to be able to recycle PLA, instead of single-use disposal and composting; to recycle it and get subsequent uses, which was not possible before,” explains Cernohous.

In August 2013 Interfacial received a NSF SBIR Phase II grant for $750,000, after successfully demonstrating the feasibility of the improved end-of-life scenario for PLA. “The Phase II allows us to do continued development and investment in capital equipment to be able to do this on a much larger scale,” says Cernohous.

Consulting services and a micro-grant from the Center for Technology Commercialization helped Interfacial with the initial SBIR Phase I application. “With their feedback and input we figured out how to properly craft a proposal to be successful with the SBIR program,” says Cernohous.

Interfacial Solutions has helped numerous customers develop and bring new materials to market. “Right now we are running upwards of 25 development projects for our customers including the projects we have going on internally,” notes Cernohous.

The firm recently acquired the former Phillips Plastics Technology Center in Prescott, Wis., which Cernohous plans to convert to a business incubator focused on material science.  “So I expect to start several more businesses over the next couple of years,” he adds.  “We already have several fairly large industrial partners who are interested in this concept.”