Compatibility, viability critical to Calgon Carbon

Kari Andren
| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 8:39 p.m.

Ralph Franco has a discriminating eye when analyzing ideas for inventions that cross his desk at Calgon Carbon Corp.

Franco, director of business development for the Robinson-based environmental treatment company, is the gatekeeper who inventors, university small business incubators and others must persuade when pitching technology.

“One thing we're looking for are technologies that are near commercial-scale,” Franco said. “We don't have a process to take them from science on a lab bench somewhere” to commercially viable.

Calgon invites idea submissions on its website and receives as many as 10 proposals a month. Universities call directly on behalf of faculty or graduate students who are working on relevant research, Franco said.

None of the ideas pitched so far has been adopted.

“You'll say ‘no' 100 times for every time you might say ‘maybe,'” he said.

Ideas must be compatible with technology Calgon uses and should become profitable within about three years, Franco said.

Calgon won a Tech 50 award in advanced manufacturing from the Pittsburgh Technology Council last year for its work in ultraviolet light disinfection.

In business for 70 years, Calgon might not appear fast-moving but “here's a company ... looking to the future with other areas of technology that aren't part of their traditional carbon-based (products), going into ultraviolet,” said Jonathan Kersting, the council's director of visibility initiatives.

“The company is exploring totally new markets that weren't around five or 10 years ago with the potential to create a lot of new jobs and opportunity here in the region,” Kersting said.

Calgon acquired Hyde Marine, an industrial fluid management company, and its ballast water treatment system in 2010. The system uses with ultraviolet light to filter and disinfect water taken on by ships to balance cargo loads. Left untreated, the water could drop invasive species into ecosystems upon discharge, Franco said.

Calgon made improvements and now manufactures the systems, said Gail Gerono, Calgon's vice president of investor relations and communications.

The partnership is an example of technology Calgon is looking for, Franco said: The technology fit Calgon's existing ultraviolet disinfection work and was commercially viable.

Companies that reinvest in themselves and explore and develop products and services are crucial to advancing the region, Kersting said.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or

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