ASU engineer to join high-powered leaders in Aspen Institute fellowship

May 7, 2015

ASU associate professor Cody Friesen doesn’t fit the usual profile of those selected for the high-profile Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellows.

Only 20 people – mostly civic and business leaders, not academics and researchers like Friesen – are chosen each year to participate in value-based leadership training with a focus on solving society’s biggest problems. Cody Friesen materials science and engineering Download Full Image

“Many of the fellows are in the corporate world, where you succeed by being very careful and not making mistakes,” said Friesen, who is on the faculty of the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“But in what I do, my way is to make as many mistakes as possible as quickly as possible. That’s a very different approach to doing things than most of the other people who will be on this team.’

As part of the institute’s 2015 fellowship team, he will engage in a series of seminars, workshops and retreats over the next two years that build leadership skills and help guide Crown Fellows in employing their expertise and talents in enterprises to serve their communities and beyond.

Friesen does fit in with the group by virtue of his entrepreneurial drive – the key trait the Aspen Institute considers in selecting new Crown Fellows. Entrepreneurship “is in my DNA,” Friesen said.

His research has produced technological innovations that are the foundation of two growing business start-ups.

Promising start-ups

Fluidic Energy is based on advances in battery technology. Friesen has developed the first rechargeable metal-air battery, one that significantly decreases the cost of storing energy. 

This has led to the batteries being deployed in emerging markets at commercial sites where the power grid has very low reliability. Fluidic Energy’s batteries have already covered more than half a million power-grid outages, many lasting for more than 10 hours.

The second start-up, Zero Mass Water, uses technology Friesen’s team has developed to produce potable water, using solar energy to power the machinery that performs the process.

The system could potentially enable water supplies to be produced locally and affordably without the need to be connected to infrastructure systems, Friesen said.

Both ventures are attracting investors and partners, and Zero Mass Water is setting up pilot projects in locales in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East where water is scarce.

Friesen’s promising work has brought four grants from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy – an especially high number for a single researcher.

The early success of the two companies has led to the establishment of Zero Mass Labs at ASU, which Friesen said he hopes will lead the way in establishing a more advanced platform for university research labs to move emerging technologies to product development and then into the marketplace.

Maximizing potential

Friesen is looking forward to his experience as a Crown Fellow to give him an “immersion in leadership culture at a high level that will help me evolve into the kind of leader I will need to be to maximize the potential positive impact of the technologies we are developing,” he said.

His fellowship team members “are fascinating people with very impressive accomplishments, and I am excited to get to work with them.”

Friesen graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering and went on to earn a doctoral degree in the field at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

He joined the ASU faculty in 2004 and has since been named one of the Fulton Entrepreneurial Professors in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, as well as a Fulton Professor of Innovation. He also is a senior sustainability scientist with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

Friesen has 32 worldwide patents and 11 U.S. patents, and in 2009 he was named one of the leading innovators in the world under the age of 35 by MIT Technology Review magazine.

Recently, he began a second term on the U.S. Manufacturing Council of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Read more about the Aspen Institute, the Henry Crown Fellowship program and the 2015 fellowship team.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Symposium paves way for venture creation in the arts

May 7, 2015

ASU doctoral student Kristi Bradford is putting a new spin on the historically stale high school science-education flick by turning the genre upside down.

She wants to give the films an engaging fictional story line to capture the imagination of students, but to really make it work she needs money. ¡Habla! AZ Download Full Image

“Usually there are only two options to make an arts idea sustainable,” Bradford said. “The first is a government grant, and that’s not very reliable. The other idea is to engage a business, company or organization and make them a part of your audience.”

The fourth biennial Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Arts aims to do just that. The two-day event starts on May 8 at Arizona State University's Tempe campus Memorial Union.

Hosted by the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship, in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and presented in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Bolz Center for Arts Administration, the symposium will explore processes, outcomes and impacts of new venture creation in the arts through hands-on workshops, pitch sessions and research presentations. Student ventures and research such as Bradford’s will be showcased in special sessions.

The symposium will be anchored by two keynote speeches from Ruby Learner, CEO of Creative Capital, and Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“Art, like science, is a way of understanding and knowing the world,” said Linda Essig, director of the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship. “Artists create new knowledge through their practice, and we teach them how to generate business so artists can sustain themselves.”

Essig said the program paves the way to the future of the arts by investing in student innovation and creativity, supporting arts education and undertaking entrepreneurial activities and research. That is achieved through classes, investment in and support for student-initiated arts-based ventures, public programming, speaker programs and workshops.

“One of the goals of the symposium is to get students, professors, artists, heads of corporations, the arts policy community together in one room and start talking about new venture creativity,” Essig said. “Pave can help student artists reach an audience for their work. We feel the expected return on investment is more great art.”

Elisa Gonzales, a Herberger Institute performance-arts graduate student, started ¡Habla! AZ last October thanks to Pave. The organization contributed $5,000 to get her Latino youth theater program off the ground. Gonzales said ¡Habla! AZ held an eight-week pilot program and mask-making workshop at Carl Hayden High School in west Phoenix and participated in last month’s El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession at the Tempe Center for the Arts. She recently filed as a non-profit business and hopes to expand programming in 2015.

“I received a lot of great business ideas on how to develop a successful business model, how to seek private funding through in-kind services and sponsorships and how to market myself,” Gonzales said. “We hope we’re able to grow our organization, thrive and give back to our community.”

Since its creation in 2006, Pave has helped develop 37 arts-based ventures and helped launch pilot programs or businesses. This year six artists – ranging from music and dance to films and gaming – will present their arts-based ventures.

Registration is required for the event. The cost is $125 for the general public; $105 for presenters; and $50 for ASU students. The fee covers all events on May 8 and 9, including a light breakfast and lunch both days.

For additional details about the symposium or to register, visit the Pave website at and click on "public programming."

Reporter , ASU News