The Silicon Review
Epirus designs and builds next generation power management solutions and energy is the driving force behind its success as a company. The team at Epirus are forward thinking in nature and turning science fiction into science fact. Epirus invests in its people. It dreams big with its technology. Epirus believes in its mission. And it executes it without ego.
Advent and growth of Epirus
The initial motivation behind Epirus was to do something different in the defense sector. Having spent years in the aerospace and defense industry, Bo Marr, CTO, and Co-Founder of Epirus, saw first-hand how bureaucracy stalled innovation. The best ideas didn’t necessarily prevail. Those that were most prescriptive did. In his previous work with big defense contractors, he was used to hearing the words “that’s impossible.” Contrast that with his experience as prolific inventor with stints at IBM, the startup community, and Georgia Tech, hearing the words “impossible” meant that might be a very valuable patent and/or a great idea for a new product. The goal of founding Epirus was to bridge this gap between the pace of innovation in technology and the establishment of defense. Epirus began to recruit the top aerospace talent with a simple claim: solve the tough problems without the red tape. In fact, one of the company’s cultural pillars is asking “why not,” based on Bo’s favorite quote by Robert F. Kennedy: “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.”
In 2018, the company set out to develop directed energy systems squarely for the defense sector. Traditional, legacy-based directed energy systems require massive scale to get the desired power output, meaning they are the size of shipping containers. Their lack of portability hinders market acceptance, so Epirus set out to create a system that was smaller without compromising power or effectiveness. In order to deliver equally strong outputs in a smaller form factor, a new power paradigm was required. A system was needed that could “digitize” power, enabling more efficient use and higher output. This was when Epirus’s engineers invented a ground-breaking component.
Enter: the Epirus SmartPower technology platform.
The system leverages machine intelligence to gate energy at the nanosecond level, only outputting power exactly when it needs to. Think of it like an incredibly efficient garden hose – only outputting water when it’s at the precisely correct flower location and knowing exactly when to stop to avoid over or under-watering. In other words, output the exact amount of power needed at the exact right time –increasing efficiency and maximizing output. With this software-defined approach to power, Epirus has been able to achieve unprecedented power efficiency improvements – a claim that has been independently verified. In talking to customers, they quickly realized that what first started as a solution to make Epirus’s directed energy systems more efficient quickly became a product in and of itself. A product that spans far beyond the defense sector – and can actually transform some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges, like increasing the range of batteries and modernizing the power grid, among other use cases. Now, SmartPower has become one of Epirus’ core innovations, powering the directed energy products the company initially set out to make – but also becoming a product in its own right.
Leader behind the success
Bo Marr currently serves as Chief Technology Officer after co-founding Epirus in 2018. Through years of experimentation and iteration, Bo co-invented Epirus SmartPower with the early team and the solid-state technologies being used today, including discovery of an exponential trend in Gallium Nitride and resonant properties that are key to Epirus’ products. Prior to Epirus, Bo spent 10 years at Raytheon, during which he was promoted to serve as Corporate Radio Frequency Technical Area Director. While at Raytheon, Bo won the President’s Award for innovation, filed over 70 U.S. and international patents and was a technical lead on the Next Generation Jammer program. Before Raytheon, Bo worked at IBM where he co-engineered the computing chips behind Watson that won Jeopardy! He is a Graduate Fellow of the National Science Foundation and holds a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Promoting innovation and staying ahead of the curve
A key internal priority for incubating innovation is cross-collaboration – ensuring that engineering is talking with business development, which is connecting with marketing, and so on. Interfacing with customers, Epirus’s teams on the ground can identify key market gaps: problems customers are facing where there isn’t a readily available or cost-effective solution, an untapped category, or an opportunity for innovation. Epirus’s product development is driven by this customer need. For example, the company’s ground-based directed energy system now has a gimbal to allow for 360-degree coverage. Epirus has introduced a new mobile and modular counter-electronics product – Leonidas Pod – to allow for advancement directly to the threat. Both features Epirus’s team heard a need for in the market. They brought the feedback in and allowed the team to innovate rapidly.
There are many key differentiators, but perhaps the most significant is the fact that Epirus’s systems are software-defined, even in areas that are very high power or very high voltage that were strictly analog historically. This means that they can make updates via the software (like updating your iPhone) rather than having to deploy entirely new hardware (like buying a new iPhone). For example, with waveform optimization and more efficient firing tactics, Epirus is able to increase range via software without costly hardware redesigns. With competitors, what you see is what you get. With Epirus, what you see today is just a glimpse into what’s possible. While it may seem commonplace in the tech industry, it’s novel in the defense industry. And at Epirus, they are bridging that gap.
Success path and future plans
When the TSR asked Bo about Epirus’s future plans he stated that “In the immediate future, our SmartPower technology will be deployed within our high-power microwave systems for defense applications, precisely controlling the voltage and current of high-power amplifiers. Within the next 5 years, we’ll begin to commercialize the technology in a range of industries and applications beyond high-power microwave and beyond even just defense, helping to drive forward critical sustainability agendas as well as give Epirus’ customers entirely new capabilities. To date, the focus on zero-carbon initiatives usually points to macro solutions that can only be instituted-in-full by governments, cities, or nations. The lion’s share of attention drifts to visions of fully electric highways or neighborhoods powered by the sun, wind, or waves. These are compelling future views, no doubt – but the most impactful clean energy contribution that humans can achieve in our lifetime may be the absolute optimal use of the energy that we already produce today. Unfortunately, so much of the energy produced today is wasted, misdirected, or simply vanishes in the form of the heat generated by antiquated systems.” He further more added that by “Leveraging advanced AI and machine intelligence techniques, we can precisely control the voltage and current of high-power amplifiers with our sense-and-control algorithms. This SmartPower platform enables real-time control of power delivery to the precise moment and level required, eliminating waste. So while we can’t immediately transition to fully-electric grids powering the infrastructure that keeps us moving, we can, in the interim, leverage cutting-edge technology – like the one we’re developing at Epirus – to use the energy we do have more efficiently.”