Rivertop Renewables, University of Montana, and MonTEC Celebrate Opening of New Labs and Semi-works Facility


(October 26, 2012) MISSOULA, Mont. – Today Rivertop Renewables, a Montana-based renewable chemicals company, in partnership with the University of Montana (UM) (www.umt.edu) and the Montana Technology Enterprise Center (MonTEC), celebrated the completed renovation of Rivertop’s chemistry labs, office space, and construction of its semi-works facility. The expanded and updated headquarters will enable Rivertop to continue research, development, and production scale-up of cost-competitive, biodegradable chemicals, while the overall improvements to the building will enable it to be a hub of innovation, clean technology and economic development for Missoula. 

Located at the MonTEC building and expanded with a grant secured with the support of U.S. Senator Max Baucus, Rivertop’s facility will create high-paying local jobs, educational and employment opportunities for University of Montana students, new city and state tax income, and production of innovative, environmentally friendly chemicals.

“This facility will speed the commercialization of new biobased chemicals that are safer, cleaner, and cost-competitive. These green chemicals will meet the sustainability standards demanded by both consumers and industry,” said Michael Knauf, CEO of Rivertop. “This project is a prime example of how private business can work with public institutions to create economic prosperity and solutions to market needs and environmental issues. We thank the University of Montana and the full Congressional delegation for their partnership and backing of this project. We especially thank Senator Baucus for his assistance with securing a $1.75 million U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant and the University of Montana for matching that grant with an infrastructure investment in MonTEC.”

“Good-paying Montana jobs rely on innovation and working together. I’ve been proud to support this facility and all of our partners to create new opportunities in the cutting edge field of renewable chemicals,” said Senator Baucus.

Rivertop’s technology was invented in the labs of company founder and University of Montana professor emeritus Dr. Don Kiely, then spun out through UM’s Office of Technology Transfer, and supported through private and public investments. The renovations were funded by a $1.75 million expansion grant from the EDA, matched by a $1.75 million grant from the University of Montana. Rivertop is also contributing $2.5 million in private capital to equip the labs and semi-works at the MonTEC facility.

“This collaboration serves as a model for public-private partnership opportunities combining scientific research at public institutions, entrepreneurial spirit, and private investment,” said Royce Engstrom, President of the University of Montana. “As technology transfer programs expand, more new companies will be created, bringing more investment, jobs, and prosperity to Montana.”

Rivertop has developed proprietary technology that can produce sustainable, high performing, cost-competitive renewable chemicals from natural sugars. At the new facility, the company is currently developing products for the detergent and petroleum industries, two billion-dollar markets seeking replacement chemicals that fulfill price, performance and sustainability mandates. The facility will also expand development of Rivertop’s biobased corrosion inhibitors for use in road deicers, a product already in use by the Montana Department of Transportation. Multiple longer-term opportunities exist in the company’s research with advanced biodegradable polymers, adhesives, and other functional materials.

After the renovation, Rivertop will occupy 15,000 square feet, including roughly 2,700 square feet of lab space, 17 offices, two conference rooms, eight benchtop hoods and two walk-in hoods, nearly 160 feet of chemistry benches and natural light throughout the building. There is significant room for growth, with an additional 1,300 square feet to expand hoods and bench space and an additional 1,400 square feet of cubicle desk space for up to 50 employees. Because Rivertop is working on sustainable replacements for phosphates in detergents, the renovation includes lab space for up to 20 automatic dishwashers and clothes washing machines.

About Rivertop Renewables
Based in Missoula, Montana, Rivertop Renewables is innovating a new category of science – Progressive Chemistry. Merging proven science with renewable resources, Rivertop Renewables is creating an abundant and economical supply of sustainable, biodegradable and non-toxic chemicals and bioproducts derived from renewable plant sugars. Rivertop currently employs 20 chemists, engineers, and business staff. 

About the University of Montana
Located at the heart of western Montana’s stunning natural landscape in Missoula, The University of Montana was founded in 1893. One-hundred nineteen years later, UM still nurtures a tradition of cultural and scientific learning. The University pursues academic excellence and unique educational experiences through the integration of the liberal arts, graduate study and professional training with international and interdisciplinary emphases. UM is a magnet not only for top-notch educators and researchers but also for about 15,000 students from across the country and around the globe.

Media Contacts:
John Williams
Scoville PR for Rivertop
(206) 660-5503 (cell), [email protected] 

Joe Fanguy
University of Montana
(406) 243-2148, [email protected]