Virent was founded in 2002 by Dr. Randy Cortright and Dr. Jim Dumesic to commercialize the Aqueous Phase Reforming (APR) process, an innovative technology the two invented and patented while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Although early research focused on generating hydrogen from sugar, as originally published in the journal Nature in 2002, the technology has since further evolved into the BioForming process, which enables the production of renewable liquid fuels, fuel gases, and other chemicals. A significant early milestone was winning a competitive Advanced Technology Program grant in 2003 which secured Virent's immediate viability and provided resources for continued development activities. In 2004, grants awarded by the US Department of Energy further advanced Virent's hydrogen research. In 2005, Virent contracted with MG&E, a local Wisconsin utility, to build an integrated BioForming reactor and hydrogen/natural gas fueled generator for electricity production. The success of this system, which began operating in December 2005 and can deliver up to 10 kW of power, demonstrated the viability of the BioForming process. This sparked the interest of companies such as Cargill and Honda and ultimately led each to invest in the company in 2006. The production of gasoline via APR confirmed the technology was a new pathway to the production of liquid fuels and chemicals currently made from fossil fuels. Virent has since received significant commercial interest and entered into key strategic industrial collaborations, including with Shell Hydrogen, which will speed the technology's time to market and enable broad commercial penetration. Virent's growing partnerships with major energy and agricultural companies, in addition to expanding global interests, continue to validate this game-changing technology.
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