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NuCurrent, Molex announce deal on wireless charging technology

Chicago-based wireless charging startup NuCurrent is teaming with Molex, looking to embed its antenna technology into a growing portfolio of platforms for mobile devices, the company announced Wednesday.

NuCurrent, which grew out of Northwestern University’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, said the deal will broaden its reach and boost its engineering power.

“They have worldwide distribution. They have manufacturing ability,” NuCurrent CEO Jacob Babcock said. “We’re primarily a design company.”

Terms of the deal were not announced, but Lisle-based Molex, with 45 manufacturing facilities in 17 countries, becomes a strategic partner and minority investor in NuCurrent, Babcock said.

It’s a feather in the cap for the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition Corporate-Startup Challenge, which brought Molex and NuCurrent together in 2013. The challenge links startups with more established companies looking to innovate.

“We wouldn’t have talked to Molex as soon as we did if it weren’t for the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition,” Babcock said.

NuCurrent started in 2009 as a group of Northwestern students looking to develop medical technology to ease spinal pain. The problem of recharging a device implanted in the human body led them to develop their wireless-power antenna, and the company pivoted two years ago to focus on consumer products.

Their technology is now used in wireless desktop charging surfaces for mobile phones, which need only be in close proximity to a device to activate the charging process. Versions are in the works that will charge laptops, tablets and wearables, Babcock said.

The market is growing. Babcock said 25 million wireless charging devices were sold in 2013. By 2021, that number is expected to grow to 1.4 billion.

Molex Director of Business Development Lily Yeung said the move keeps Molex on the cutting edge of innovation in the sector.

“Wireless-device charging has the potential to drastically change how the world powers its phones and other portable devices, and Molex is thrilled to be involved in the early stages of this emerging technology,” she said in a statement released Wednesday.

Prior to Wednesday's announcement, NuCurrent had raised about $4.5 million in seed capital, including a $3.5 million Series A round in October, Babcock said.