Eye on the prize(s): Blending diversity with trucking fuel efficiency

Civil unrest this summer — including Monday morning in Chicago — has cast a brighter light on unequal treatment and opportunities because of factors beyond people’s control, such as race. That sentiment rings true in the tech industry as well.

I recently spoke with Chicago entrepreneur David Manosalvas-Kjono, who wants to improve diversity in tech while developing a trucking device that increases fuel efficiency and lowers emissions. This summer Manosalvas-Kjono became part of the newest cohort for the LatinX Incubator, a partnership between Chicago innovation hub 1871 and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The program allows him to share ideas with other like-minded entrepreneurs also focused on diversity and inclusivity.

“It kind of gets old to be the only person in the room focusing on diversity,” he said. “When we founded Aeromutable we wanted to create an inclusive place that fosters diversity to showcase the advantages of diversity when it comes to innovation.”

Today’s headlines:


  • Indiana University researchers have created the brightest known fluorescent materials. They are patent-pending and have potential applications for solar energy harvesting.
  • Argonne National Laboratory is developing artificial intelligence-driven bird detection software to mitigate bird deaths at solar facilities, reports Wired.

🌱 AGRICULTURE: Purdue University is one of the partners for a new National Science Foundation engineering research center focused on agricultural technologies that address food, energy, and water security.

***SPONSORED LINK: Join CELI for emPOWER20 August 26-28. emPOWER is a virtual experience with 30 unique sessions and 40+ hours of content designed to foster a new kind of energy leadership and drive toward a resilient, equitable, and decarbonized energy ecosystem.***


  • The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Research Foundation wants to raise $400,000 to invest in startups to ease challenges they face related to transitioning from research ideas to business opportunities, reports the Milwaukee Business Journal.
  • Chicago-based S2G Ventures, focused on human and environmental health startups, launched an oceans and seafood investment team. It will invest in companies that develop alternative protein seafood, aquaculture, supply chain innovation, algae and seaweed cultivation, and ecosystem services.


  • Energy startup incubator BRITE Energy Innovators in Warren, Ohio, is expanding its geographic reach to new parts of the state through a partnership with TechGROWTH Ohioreports The Business Journal.
  • Chicago’s Discovery Partners Institute launched its inaugural I-Corps program, a seven-week virtual boot camp to connect entrepreneurs with instructors and resources from the National Science Foundation I-Corps programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

***SPONSORED LINK: The Rise Up! podcast brings real-time, relevant energy and policy information to Midwest stakeholders through an engaging and entertaining medium. Episode 4: “Credit Where Credit is Due” with special guest Andy Johnson is out now! #RiseUpMidwest***

Now, more on Aeromutable. The startup eschews the currently hot subjects in transportation tech — electric and autonomous vehicles — and instead aims to bring aerospace technology to the trucking industry.

The innovation: The startup’s first product is a device that attaches to the back of a heavy truck trailer. It modifies the truck’s standard shape and optimizes its aerodynamics. It senses what’s happening around the truck — such as wind gusts — and provides an active response, making vehicle operation easier and safer for the driver. Better aerodynamics and performance reduces fuel consumption as well as carbon emissions. The device can be retrofitted onto any standard trailer.

“We’re looking into how we can improve a certain sector in order to improve the environment. I realized trucking is one of the bigger markets that had an influence on the environment, specifically carbon pollution,” co-Founder and CEO David Manosalvas-Kjono told me.

Key challenge: Manosalvas-Kjono wants fleets to use Aeromutable’s device not just to fulfill fuel efficiency and emissions requirements, but also to help their bottom line.

“If we’re going to create a device, it needs to save a company money. Trucking industry profit margins are very thin already,” he said. “If we can demonstrate that this saves money and reduces pollution, it’s a win-win. Those things have been mutually exclusive in the past.”

Manosalvas-Kjono says developing a hardware product is challenging because so many startup incubators are focused on software, and it is more capital intensive to create hardware protoypes. Finding adequate workspace for hardware development is also difficult, although he credits the support and space from Chain Reaction Innovations at Argonne National Laboratory with helping Aeromutable get off the ground.

What’s next: Aeromutable has de-risked much of its technology and aims to partner with trucking fleets to test its product. The device should go to market soon after final testing is completed. Manosalvas-Kjono anticipates the business will release additional sustainable trucking technologies in the future.

Let me know about other Midwest tech entrepreneurs I should cover in Centered. Send news tips, press releases, and feedback via email to katie@centered.tech or connect on LinkedIn and Twitter @centereddottech.

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