A Conversation with Paul Tyno, Strategic Advisor on Energy Initiatives for the BNMC

A Conversation with Paul Tyno, Strategic Advisor on Energy Initiatives for the BNMC


Paul Tyno is a respected energy industry professional who is responsible for implementing the Campus Energy Innovation Plan with our partners, member institutions and surrounding neighborhoods. His background includes building, designing and implementing complex demand response/load management programs and related demand side management solutions. Paul is a nationally recognized industry spokesperson and demand response subject area expert. He is the past Chairman of the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA), a professional industry organization.

Why the focus on Energy for a Medical Campus?

No one really understands the value of energy until you don’t have it.  For any medical institution, it is a foundational element that drives so much including all of the equipment, technology, and research, so ensuring continuous, high-quality power is critical. Any disruption can have significant, and potentially life threatening implications. In this digital age, there are also differing levels of power quality and, because of the nature of medical institutions, the quality has to be higher than other energy users. If your lights flicker at home, it is no big deal, but a similar disruption to sensitive medical equipment or technology could have profound implications.

How do the Campus and its member institutions benefit from a focus on energy?

From the beginning, we understood that it was important to create a high-level energy environment for the Campus and its medical institutions. As a campus with multiple institutions, we recognized that we have more robust opportunities for collective action that can maximize efficiencies and that our member institutions could socialize the costs to realize these benefits.  Working together may also bring more diversification to the strategies we employ that may not have been possible if member institutions worked alone. By focusing our efforts in this way, we can drive value for our member institutions.

As a “city within a city,” the BNMC is also in a unique position to drive change in the energy arena in ways that municipalities and utilities simply can’t. We can test, deploy and execute new wp-contentroaches that can become catalyst for change and potentially a model for others.  The Medical Campus and our overall region also benefit because high quality infrastructure signals innovation and a progressive wp-contentroach that attracts companies and professionals to this area.

How did the Energy Initiative begin on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus?

As the BNMC was completing its Campus Master Plan, we began having informal conversations with National Grid who challenged us to consider energy implications and to think about energy more holistically as we planned for growth.  That resulted in us collaborating to create EnergizeBNMC, a Campus energy plan that looked at the long term. By creating an energy plan, we put in place a formal planning structure that included energy considerations in the planning phase of development. This allowed us to collectively plan for future growth and ensure that the energy needs of the Campus could be met effectively and efficiently as part of the overall development plan.

After a career in industry and on the consulting side of the energy business, what was it about working for the non-profit BNMC that interested you?

The social impact of BNMC’s work and its energy focus was very wp-contentealing to me. Also, having been born and raised here, I was also drawn to the Buffalo-centric nature of the work – I like having a role, even on a small level, in Buffalo’s rebirth.

BNMC was recently awarded NY Prize for the design of a microgrid – what does that mean for the Medical Campus?

Regardless of the award, our focus has been the development of the Medical Campus and our surrounding neighborhoods as a self-sustaining energy hub, enabling us to “island” from the existing grid in the event of a catastrophe or to optimize energy on “blue sky” days.  We had begun planning for the development of a microgrid before NY Prize was introduced and it has helped us to fund the project. Collectively, the Campus wants to maximize economic value through the effective use of energy resources – both those that exist and future ones. While all microgrids seek to improve energy resiliency, particularly in the face of emergencies or extreme weather events, the BNMC will also have a significant focus on developing a microgrid business model that will drive cost savings and potential monetization opportunities for its member institutions.

How significant is the award and the work ahead?

The NY Prize for the design of the Medical Campus microgrid is very significant. The BNMC was one of only eleven other projects funded at this stage. We had been awarded $100,000 from Stage 1 NY Prize in 2015 for the initial feasibility study and now the Stage 2 funding, at wp-contentroximately $900,000, will help fund a more detailed design plan. This stage will allow us to develop strategies to outline technology, assets, location, ownership, operations and performance expectations.  Once completed, our member institutions will have the necessary information they will need to make decisions about enacting any or all parts of the plan and the role they want to play.  We envision this wp-contentroach will allow the Medical Campus to be connected and run parallel with the existing grid or to disconnect and run independently as a collective unit, providing the high quality power we require.

There are other benefits beyond core energy benefits as well including improving our ability to attract investment, new partners and new companies to the region. It also positions us as a model for other cities, Medical Campuses or Innovation Districts who may be interested in building a more robust energy plan for their region. Because the Medical Campus does not have a single point of governance, we may present a more “real world” model and be able to share lesson learned on collaboration and partnership.

What is the future goal or ideal state regarding Energy on Campus?

Even if our current vision of a self-sustaining energy hub becomes are reality, I don’t think we ever envision to be completely done with our energy work, as it is very dynamic. We will need to continue to respond and innovate based on the economics, the policy and regulatory environment and the evolution of technology and innovation in the marketplace.  Collaboration with our member institutions and industry partners makes this possible and I envision it will continue for the foreseeable future.

Meet Our Team: Q & A with Vic Nole

A Conversation with Vic Nole

Vic Nole joined the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc. (BNMC) in early 2014 as Director of Business Development, heading up the non-profit organization’s focus on building Buffalo’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Vic is a life sciences industry executive with more than 20 years of operations, business management, and entrepreneurial experience.  Prior to the BNMC, he managed a private consulting firm that focused on helping life science researchers and inventors to bring their products and technologies to market. He also served as President of Invitrogen Corporation’s GIBCO cell culture products division, Vice President of Manufacturing Operations for Strategic Diagnostics, Inc., Vice President of Site Operations for Life Technologies Inc., and as General Manager and Chief Operating Officer for United Biochemicals.

As a former researcher, entrepreneur, and life science business executive, what attracted you to working at the BNMC?

While at Invitrogen, my focus was to develop a business model for our cell biology business that became very successful and during that time I became involved with BUFFLink, a group of local business leaders that was trying to catalyze the life sciences work being done here as an economic driver for the region. It was really ahead of its time, but it afforded me the opportunity to learn about a lot of cool research that was going on at UB and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. At that time, there was no formal mechanism for creating new companies based on local research. Most of the intellectual property generated by research being done here was licensed and then left the area. I saw a lot of opportunity in changing that, especially as the Medical Campus began to grow. Years later, while running my consulting business, I had a number of connections to some of the work being done on Campus in life sciences and my interest grew. The actual connection to BNMC came when I attended a social networking event, Beakers and Beer, and started a conversation about creating and attracting new life science companies to Buffalo with Pat Whalen, BNMC’s COO at the time. Joining the team was a perfect fit for me and my background and it gave me the opportunity to stay in Buffalo and contribute to the region.

How do you see the role of the BNMC in the region’s entrepreneurial community?

The Innovation Center has really become the epicenter of entrepreneurial activity on the Medical Campus and in the region. With a full offering of workspace, business services, mentoring, networking and the assets of the overall Campus, it offers resources for those that are starting with just an idea, to companies that are already in the marketplace and growing.

My role, and that of the BNMC, is to provide support for young companies throughout the design, launch, and growth process, so my work can be all over the board depending on where in the development pipeline a young company needs help. We get involved in everything from helping companies develop their business model, to teaching the commercialization process, to connecting them to the resources and service providers they may need to run their business.

Our role is a little different than most incubators in that we don’t take a fee or an equity stake in companies that we work with. Our mission is to create jobs and to actively participate in Buffalo’s revitalization, so we see creating, building and attracting businesses to the area as the most important things that we do.

How do you typically work with a start up company?

We always start with a conversation. Many times, starts-up will come to us looking for connections to the VC community believing that what they need is money. We take the wp-contentroach of asking a lot of questions to determine what they really need at that specific point in their evolution, and often times it is something very different than what they originally thought. Other times people will ask for help with a business plan, when figuring out what their product or business model actually is can be a more important first step. We like to teach them the commercialization process so they know what they are in for, help them to vet their value proposition for market viability, and then get them connected to the right resources to accelerate their growth.

What changes have you seen since you began working with BNMC nearly three years ago?

One of my biggest concerns when I started was the willingness of those working in the local entrepreneurial space to collaborate. Ten years ago things were very parochial with people working in silos and protecting their turf. Around the time I joined the BNMC, however, there were also a number of others in the life sciences community who were starting in new business development roles and I think we all had the sense that talking to each other, working together and leveraging our connections was going to make everyone more successful. The community is far more collaborative then it has ever been and there is a lot of willingness to guide start-ups to other incubators or resources if they can be better served. You can see these connections on display at various networking events around town. Everyone seems to be working for the greater good – building a better Buffalo!

The other really important change has been that we have some very real successes to point to. There is a big difference between talking about what you want to do and actually demonstrating that success. Five years ago there was no functioning eco-system to speak of. Today, there are nearly 120 companies that have a presence here on the medical campus so there is a lot of talent, skills and other resources that can be leveraged to attract new companies.

What type of company could really benefit by working with the Medical Campus?

It really starts with the assets we have on Campus. Any start-up in the area of life sciences would be well served given the world-class research, clinical resources, and our focus on bioengineering, bioinformatics, genomics and similar fields that can be found here. It is an ideal setting for companies focused on healthcare, therapeutics, diagnostics, and medical devices.  We also have a growing core of technology companies that are supported by other incubator programs here at the Innovation Center like 43North and Z80 Labs.

We don’t limit our work to life science and tech companies, however, as we frequently work with businesses of all types. We especially like to help social innovators and entrepreneurs who live in our adjacent neighborhoods because these groups are working to improve and enrich our surrounding community. And we are proud of our role as connectors and facilitators, shepherding people and companies to those resources in the community that can be most helpful in ensuring their business success.

What’s next – how do you see the next few years in terms of entrepreneurial growth?

I believe we are poised for exponential growth now that we have demonstrated success. It is tough to sell a concept but we now have tangible assets – growing companies, life science expertise, physical space and a networked community dedicated to getting companies on their feet and growing. We also have proximity to Toronto and we are in great position to offer Canadian companies a gateway to the U.S. market.  One of the other really exciting and encouraging developments is that young people want to be here and they tend to be entrepreneurial. Our challenge now is keeping our home grown talent here in town, attracting new talent from outside of Buffalo, and then connecting those young people to exciting new business opportunities.