Open letter from an EMN graduate: Please restore the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund

The SBIR/STTR Matching Fund was not included in Governor Bill Lee’s 2021-2022 budget proposal. As a result, Launch Tennessee is advocating for this funding to be restored in the FY22 budget and is encouraging stakeholders to join in this effort.

Anna Douglas, Co-Founder and CEO of SkyNano and an Energy Mentor Network graduate, has answered LaunchTN’s call. SkyNano received an SBIR Matching grant in 2019. According to LaunchTN, the Matching Fund continues to be one of the state’s most promising ways to support the commercialization of high-value startups in Tennessee. Read Douglas’ letter below:

Senator Briggs,

I run a science-based startup company SkyNano, which is based on my Vanderbilt PhD research on low-cost production of highly valuable carbon nanotubes from CO2. The work has been funded by the US Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Science Foundation, the state of Tennessee, and some initial customers. Our work has been widely recognized in scientific literature as well as by Forbes (both co-founders are Forbes 30 Under 30 innovators) and R&D100 Magazine (2020 R&D100 Awardee, an award known as the “Oscars of Innovation”). When we founded the company in January 2017, it was just a wild idea and a couple of crazy scientists with a dream of economically viable carbon pollution sequestration without the need for a carbon tax or other policy incentive, but driven by market demands for lower cost nano-materials for high performing materials and devices. Fast forward 4 years and we are now a team of 5 full time and 1 part time engineers, having raised >$3.7M in non-dilutive funding, having created 5 high-paying jobs from nothing, and licensing the technology from Vanderbilt. Not only is SkyNano a job creator (and recruiter of talent, having recruited 2 of our staff from out of state to relocate here), but we are helping to train up the next generation of Tennessee scientists through hosting summer interns.

In 2019, SkyNano received an SBIR Matching grant to support the development of our technology and cover the cost of necessary expenses that are unallowable by the SBIR/STTR program. Since then, we’ve received $2.7M, of which SkyNano is responsible for cost-sharing $500K over the next 3 years. We have been counting on the SBIR/STTR Matching program being restored into the state budget, but it has come to my attention that the program has not been funded in Gov. Lee’s proposed FY22 budget. I am urging you to restore the funding at double of 2019’s level to make up for the lack of funds in 2020, and to aid in Tennessee’s economic recovery post-COVID crisis. As the Kauffman institute has demonstrated through their 2014 study, NEW and YOUNG businesses are the primary source of job creation in the American economy. As LaunchTN has shown in their infographic here, Tennessee receives less SBIR/STTR funds than almost every other neighboring state, despite having the nation’s LARGEST national laboratory and 2 of the best engineering institutions right here in our backyard. The SBIR/STTR Match program helps businesses like SkyNano thrive here and continue to pull in more federal SBIR/STTR funding to continue creating jobs for talented Tennesseans. One of the reasons SkyNano has chosen to continue operating in Knoxville is due to the support we have received in the past from the state, but if support like the SBIR/STTR matching program is not restored in ongoing budgets, we will be forced to look at relocating to a state with a more fertile environment for growth. The pathway to commercialization for science-based companies like ours is long, arduous, and expensive, and we heavily rely on community support to survive our early years. I ask again that you reinstate the SBIR/STTR matching program to help startups like SkyNano be the backbone of Tennessee’s economic recovery and set an example to neighboring states to show them how investing in YOUNG and NEW high-growth startups pays dividends in economic rewards.

I am available if you have any questions or would like to talk further about this critical issue.

Thanks,
Dr. Anna Douglas

If you would like the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund to be restored, LaunchTN say to contact your state legislators before March 1. Like Douglas, include your own unique story about why the Matching Fund is important for startup company growth and the creation of new jobs for Tennesseans. Find local representatives and senators here.

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network, run by TAEBC in partnership with LaunchTN, click here.

Advanced energy 101: The basics of Tennessee’s advanced energy economy

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy. To accomplish this mission, we educate public officials and business leaders about Tennessee’s advanced energy assets, establish strategic partnerships to connect assets with opportunities and inform policy that expands and strengthens the industry.

Last year, TAEBC hosted numerous events that emphasized the importance of transportation electrification and others that highlighted the benefits of advanced energy for local power companies (LPCs) across the Tennessee Valley. This year, TAEBC will continue to advance our priorities and focus on cultivating our state’s advanced energy economy, inviting stakeholders from West, Middle and East Tennessee to participate in this conversation. 

To celebrate and bring more awareness to Tennessee’s advanced energy economy, TAEBC has launched a short Advanced Energy 101 series. Part One will focus on the “basics,” which includes the what, why and how of advanced energy in our state.

What is advanced energy?

Advanced energy is a relatively new term but refers to any technology that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure and more efficient. It includes manufacturers and companies that use advanced energy technologies, as well as professional service providers, researchers and entrepreneurs.

Rather than favoring specific technologies, the term advanced energy is technology neutral. Any technology that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure and more efficient is in the bucket. Some examples include:

  • electric and plug-in hybrid cars
  • lightweight composites for the automotive industry
  • natural gas fueled trucks
  • pollution control equipment
  • bioenergy
  • high-performance buildings
  • more efficient industrial processes
  • power reliability
  • smart grids
  • combined heat and power
  • the latest wind, solar and nuclear technologies

Want to learn more? Check out this video where some of our members define advanced energy and discuss what the sector means for our state.

Why is advanced energy important?

According to TAEBC’s 2018 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report, advanced energy represents a $1.4 trillion global market. As the advanced energy economy continues to grow, it is more critical than ever for Tennessee to grow its share of this $1.4 trillion global market. 

In Tennessee, the industry represents a $39.7 billion contribution to state GDP, employs 358,360 jobs, and includes 18,170 businesses across the state. Advanced energy injects billions into the state economy, creates high quality jobs for Tennesseans, fuels growth for existing businesses, and attracts new corporate investment in the state. 

Since 2013, employment in the sector grew by 10.3 percent, a rate higher than the state’s overall growth rate of 8.3 percent. Meanwhile, these jobs pay Tennesseans an average wage of $59,665, significantly more than the state’s economy-wide average of $44,317. Even better, these high-quality jobs aren’t just in urban areas. The advanced energy economy can enhance economic development in rural areas as well.

Learn more about the impact of advanced energy on our economy by downloading the 2018 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report.

How can Tennessee lead the way in the advanced energy sector? 

Tennessee is already leading the way in the advanced energy sector, but TAEBC believes it’s vital to continue to support this important sector of our economy. As Cortney Piper, TAEBC’s Executive Director wrote in a recent guest column for the Knoxville News Sentinel, “The future is promising for advanced energy in Tennessee and the Southeast.”

There have been major victories in the advanced energy sector in the past year, particularly in the area of transportation electrification. Some of these include General Motors’ $2 billion plan for its electric vehicle plant in Spring Hill that will build Cadillac’s SUV and VW breaking ground on a $22 million Chattanooga lab to test EV batteries.

Even earlier this month, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced their partnership to develop a statewide electric vehicle fast charging network. This move will support the continued adoption of electric vehicles throughout the state and reduce barriers to the sector’s growth. 

Tennessee’s advanced energy economy is truly thriving. Over the next year, TAEBC is looking forward to releasing an updated economic impact report in 2021 and pursuing more collaborations and partnerships with Tennessee elected leaders, major institutions in the state and other TAEBC members.

Want to learn more or stay connected? Register for our bi-monthly newsletter and event notices today.

Register now for the 2021 TAEBC Annual Meeting!

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council will hold its 2021 Annual Meeting, sponsored by Seven States Power Corporation, virtually on March 25, 2021 from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET. Register here to attend.

Featured speakers:

  • Vanessa Z. Chan, Chief Commercialization Officer & Director of the Office of Technology Transitions at the U.S. Department of Energy
  • Michael Garrabrant, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Stone Mountain Technologies
  • Ryan Stanton, Senior Consultant for Strategic Energy Initiatives, Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation

This event is free to TAEBC members, government or elected officials. For non-members, tickets cost $25, plus a small additional processing fee.

Please tuned for more information regarding this event. This post will be updated periodically.

TAEBC is hosting three Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtables!

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council will host virtual business roundtables in each region and a statewide Energy Incentives webinar to create a cohesive statewide network to become the number one state in the country for the electric vehicle supply chain. Additionally, these efforts will cultivate an advanced energy economy to attract and retain innovative businesses. 

Virtual Event Schedule

  • West Tennessee -April 13, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. CT / 11:00 a.m. ET
    • To attend, RSVP here.
  • Middle Tennessee – June 9, 2021 at 10:00 a.m. CT / 11:00 a.m. ET 
  • Statewide Energy Incentives Webinar – August 3, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. CT/10 a.m. ET (2 hours)
  • East Tennessee – October 13, 2021 at 10:00 am CT/11:00 am ET

Purpose of These Events

  • Guide communication and outreach efforts regarding advanced energy
  • Identify areas to build the network to support a progressing EV supply chain in the state and cultivate an advanced energy economy to attract and retain innovative businesses
  • Connect businesses with higher education and technical campuses to discuss evolving needs
  • Gather information to share with the Council and stakeholders regarding workforce challenges
  • Increase feedback regarding existing energy incentives and desired incentives 

Partners

  1. TAEBC Members
  2. Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
  3. LaunchTN
  4. UT-System  
  5. Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR)
  6. Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA)
  7. Regional Chambers of Commerce Partners

*More partners are being added every week.

Attendees

  1. Business leaders with a focus and role in the advanced energy economy
  2. Members of each partner organization

Register here for the Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtable for West Tennessee. Registration for Middle and West Tennessee Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtables will open soon.

Submit nominations for the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award!

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is now accepting nominations for the Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award. The annual award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

TAEBC champions the state’s advanced energy economy as an economic development and job creation strategy through sharing information, connecting stakeholders, and strengthening the industry. These pillars are personally exemplified by the tireless work of Tom Ballard, an unparalleled leader, educator, mentor, and advocate of Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

Ballard was TAEBC’s first president upon its launch in 2014 and served on the board of directors until 2019. The Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award is an annual award, accepting nominations every year and presenting the winner with the honor at future annual meetings. This year’s winner will be announced at TAEBC’s 2021 Annual Meeting, held virtually on March 25, 2021.

In 2019, TAEBC bestowed the first-ever Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award to Ballard himself, during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting on Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub. Read more here. Last year, TAEBC awarded Dan Hurst, CEO and Founder of Knoxville-based Strata-G, with the annual Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, March 5, 2020, at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub. Read more here.

Please fill out the information here, and we’ll contact you if your nomination has been selected as the winner.

The extended deadline to submit your nominations is Monday, March 8, 2021.