In 1961, two engineers, Harry Apkarian and Beno Sternlicht, left General Electric to go out on their own. They scraped together $380,000 and in October of that year, Mechanical Technology Inc. opened its doors.  The partners had two primary objectives, which together became known as the MTI Concept. The first was to provide technological advances to support American industry and defense agencies. The second was to develop marketable proprietary products from these technologies.

In other words, the MTI Concept held that commercial products would be the outgrowth of R&D programs.  More than a dozen other GE engineers would join Apkarian and Sternlicht, and within a year the company had $500,000 in contracts. By 1966, that number reached $3.5 million, with MTI winning 87 percent of the contracts it bid. The company’s first proposal, submitted to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, outlined plans for the development of a helium blower with hydrodynamic, gas-lubricated bearings. By the mid-60s, MTI had developed and produced more gas lubricated turbomachines than all other US industrial corporations combined.

In years that followed, MTI would be known as a worldwide expert in energy conversion machinery; a leader in co-generation, power and heat systems; the brain behind the revolutionary Stirling Cycle high-efficiency engine; a pioneer in test and measurement instruments and a driving force in the development of fuel cell technology.

Acquisitions and joint ventures were part of the MTI story almost from the beginning, as the company expanded its reach and capabilities. Other businesses were created by “spinning off” products from R&D to production. This included the subsidiary now known as MTI Instruments, which forms the backbone of the company today.