AMES, Iowa (July 9, 2020) – The Iowa State University Startup Factory today announced that cohort eight team member, Legov Systems Group, LLC, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $225,000 to conduct research and development (R&D) work on a Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) Thermal Energy Harvesting System.

The innovation will be an SMA actuator comprised of a novel, porous SMA material operating in a compact rotary form. The porous material’s small feature size will allow for fast heat transfer and phase transformation, compared to solid SMA actuators. The grant will support research headed by Legov Systems Group Co-founders, Julie Slaughter, Kelly Rowles and Rick Zrostlik.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, Division Director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

“Legov Systems Group is developing fast-acting SMA actuators as a key part of our thermal energy harvesting system,” Zrostlik said. “This novel actuator is expected to result in the recovery of substantially more power from low-grade waste heat than competing technologies, potentially leading to reduced operating costs, reduced energy demands, and improved sustainability for targeted users such as owners/operators of combined heat and power (CHP) installations, metal manufacturers, chemical processors, industrial boilers, and other industrial facilities currently unable to recover the substantial amounts of low-grade waste heat that their facilities generate.”

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $256,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $1,000,000). Small businesses with Phase II grants are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

Startups or entrepreneurs who submit a three-page Project Pitch will know within three weeks if they meet the program’s objectives to support innovative technologies that show promise of commercial and/or societal impact and involve a level of technical risk. Small businesses with innovative science and technology solutions, and commercial potential are encouraged to apply. All proposals submitted to the NSF SBIR/STTR program, also known as America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, undergo a rigorous merit-based review process. To learn more about America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF, visit:

This research is supported by the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) of the National Science Foundation under award number 2013838. The content of this press release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Science Foundation.

Legov Systems Group is a member of the Iowa State University Startup Factory’s eighth cohort. The Startup Factory is a 52-week intensive program at the Iowa State University Research Park that provides an avenue for students, faculty, staff, and community members to create technology-based, platform businesses.


About the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Programs
America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF awards $200 million annually to startups and small businesses, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. Startups working across almost all areas of science and technology can receive up to $1.75 million to support research and development (R&D), helping de-risk technology for commercial success. America’s Seed Fund is congressionally mandated through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The NSF is an independent federal agency with a budget of about $8.1 billion that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. For more information, visit


About Legov Systems Group, LLC

Legov Systems Group LLC, co-founded by Rick Zrostlik, Julie Slaughter and Kelly Rowles, is developing scalable energy harvesting systems to convert thermal energy into electrical. For more information on Legov Systems Group, call 208.869.1122 or visit

About ISU Startup Factory

The Iowa State University (ISU) Startup Factory is a 52-week intensive program housed at the ISU Research Park (ISURP). Entrepreneurs in the Startup Factory receive formal training, resources, and access to a network of business mentors, advisors, counselors, and investors in two 26-week blocks: the first a formal curriculum centered on business validation, and the second, customized to their individual business needs. For more information on the ISU Startup Factory program, call 515.294.7444 or visit


Julie Lelonek, Iowa State University Startup Factory Communications

Iowa State University
Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations
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Ames, IA  50010

NSF Media Contact: NSF Public Affairs,, 703-292-7090