Tennessee startups Active Energy and SkyNano graduate from Energy Mentor Network

Two Tennessee energy startups – SkyNano Technologies and Active Energy Systems – are graduating from the Energy Mentor Network, a rigorous mentorship program that cultivates energy entrepreneurship across the state.

Run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) in partnership with Launch Tennessee, the Energy Mentor Network equips promising young companies with the tools and connections to raise capital and scale their businesses to market success. Active Energy and SkyNano were paired with expert entrepreneurs to guide the companies through the multi-tiered program of panel presentations and mentorship sessions. To reach graduation, the startups built investable pitch decks, finance models, and structured business plans and defended those plans before panels of established entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Active Energy Systems was founded by Mitchell Ishmael and Levon Atoyan in 2017. The cofounders invented the world’s first “icephobic coating,” which creates a surface impervious to freezing water. The patent-pending coating is the technology behind Active Energy’s revolutionary air conditioning system that greatly improves cooling performance by eliminating ice build-up. The ultra-efficient, low-cost thermal energy storage system is environmentally superior to standard cooling systems and enables electricity to be accessed overnight for later use when cost is less expensive.

SkyNano Technologies was cofounded by Anna Douglas in 2017. She and co-founder Cary Pint developed a novel technique that makes the production of highly sought-after carbon nanotubes much more efficient, affordable, and scalable. SkyNano’s patent-pending technology relies on electrochemistry, rather than solely chemical catalysis as is currently used, and more efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide into functional nanomaterials. The new manufacturing technique produces low-cost, high-value nanotubes, solving cost and scalability limitations associated with existing carbon nanotube manufacturing techniques while also enabling commercial viability to carbon conversion technologies through high-value secondary material.

During their time in the Energy Mentor Network, Active Energy and SkyNano made significant gains in financing and market-readiness.

SkyNano secured close to $1,000,000 in funding grants and fellowships from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation SBIR program matched by LaunchTN. Anna was named a 2019 Forbes Magazine “30 Under 30” Disrupter in Energy. The company is expanding its work force and this fall, SkyNano plans to scale its patent-pending technology and deliver product samples to early customers.

Active Energy secured more than $500,000 in funding grants and fellowships from the Department of Energy, TennesSeed Fund, and National Science Foundation SBIR program matched by LaunchTN. The company was also named a finalist in the 2018 76West Clean Energy Competition. Active Energy is currently building a much larger cooling system for a 6,000 sq ft facility and constructing a “show and tell” system for onsite demonstrations.

Both graduating energy startups were members of the inaugural cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) Innovation Crossroads program, a two-year fellowship that supports energy entrepreneurs take their inventions from R&D to commercialization. Innovation Crossroads is a business mentor partner of the Energy Mentor Network. SkyNano and Active Energy are the third and fourth startups to graduate from the Energy Mentor Network.

Innovation Crossroads opens applications for cohort four, hosts informational webinars

Innovation Crossroads is an Oak Ridge National Laboratory program that matches aspiring energy entrepreneurs with experts and mentors in technology-related fields to take their world-changing ideas from R&D to the marketplace. The program is now welcoming applications for Cohort Four and encouraging interested individuals to sign up for informational webinars.

Seven entrepreneurs will be chosen for this cohort, where sponsors include DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Specific topics of interest identified by DOE’s AMO and TVA include technologies in Energy and Advanced Manufacturing and Shared Integrated Grid, respectively. 

Applicants whose technology doesn’t fall under the aforementioned categories are still encouraged to apply. To learn more about the program’s benefits, application process and more, sign up for an informational webinar at one of the following times:

  • Friday, September 20th at 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Wednesday, October 9th at 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Thursday, October 24th at 2:30 p.m. ET

Selected participants will receive a two-year fellowship, lab access and research funding, and business mentors, entrepreneurial training, and networking opportunities. For interested applicants, here are some key dates and times to keep in mind:

  • Applications open: September 17, 2019 at 8:00 am ET
  • Applications close: October 31, 2019 at 5:00 pm ET
  • Initial application review: November 2019: Applications are reviewed by the Innovation Crossroads team, as well as scientific and industry subject matter experts
  • Phone interviews: December 2019: Based on initial review, selected applicants will be invited to conduct a brief phone screen with the Innovation Crossroads team.
  • In-person interviews: January/February 2020: Interviewees will be invited to visit ORNL to tour facilities, connect with potential collaborators, principal investigators and mentors, and present for our team of reviewers.
  • Cohort four selected: March 2020
  • Cohort four starts at Innovation Crossroads: May 2020

Ready to apply? Here is the application. Contact innvcrossrds@ornl.gov if you have any questions.

SBA Awards LaunchTN Grant to Support Small Business Innovation and R&D Commercialization

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently granted 24 awards up to $125,000 in the Fiscal Year 2019 through its Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program. TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network partner, Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN), was named the grant recipient for Tennessee.

The program’s goal is to improve outcomes for underrepresented entrepreneurs in its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. FAST also aims to increase participation for rural-based, women-owned and economically disadvantaged firms.

In addition to receiving one-year of funding beginning September 30, the FAST program offers mentorship, technical assistance, specialized training and outreach opportunities for R&D focused small businesses. Organizations use the funding to help enact state and regional programs that support SBIR applicants and awardees.

“FAST partners support an important role in attempting to fill various gaps that R&D-focused small businesses may have to help them win SBIR/STTR awards,” said Acting Administrator Christopher Pilkerton in a prepared statement. “They focus on the needs of next-generation high-tech firms and support them through the entire cycle from ideation to commercialization. SBIR funding is one way to do that. Additionally, a number of these awards are going to partners that are located in Opportunity Zones where job creation and investments are moving forward to revitalize communities.”

To learn more about FAST, follow this link.

USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) is seeking applications

The USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses for renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements. Currently, the USDA is seeking applications for Fiscal Year 2020

The purpose of the program is to create energy independence through increasing access to capital for renewable energy projects and decreasing the demand for energy through energy efficient initiatives. Funds may be used to buy, install, and install renewable energy systems, including solar, biomass, hydrogen, wind, geothermal, and more. Other possible uses include energy efficiency improvements for HVAC systems, insulation, lighting, doors and windows, cooling units, and more. Applications for grants and/or loans have varying deadlines: 

  • Grants and/or Loans of $20,000 or Less: Applications due October 31, 2019 or March 31, 2020
  • Unrestricted Grants and/or Loans: Applications due March 31, 2020
  • Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grants: Applications due January 31, 2020
  • Guaranteed Loans: Applications are accepted on a continuous cycle

The agency encourages all applicants to consider projects that offer measurable results in rural communities, helping them build robust, sustainable economics through effective and strategic investments in partnerships, infrastructure and innovation. According to the USDA, these strategies may include:

  • Achieving e-Connectivity for Rural America
  • Developing the Rural Economy
  • Harnessing Technological Innovation
  • Supporting a Rural Workforce
  • Improving Quality of Life 

Follow this link to learn more about REAP or apply for financial assistance. Click here to find the REAP point of contact for your region in Tennessee. 

REGISTER NOW! 2019 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Forum & Expo

TDEC, TDOT, and TNCleanFuels will hold the fifth annual Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Forum & Expo (STF&E) from October 1-2, 2019 at the UT Conference Center in Knoxville. 

The forum will showcase new research and technologies that improve transportation efficiency, reduce vehicle emissions, and address the mobility for everyone in the state. Panelists and speakers from across the country will highlight best practices to transform transportation systems efficiently, affordably, and sustainably.

In addition to the forum, the conference will offer a luncheon that honors both winners of the Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards (TSTAs) and new inductees to the Tennessee Green Fleets (TGF) program. 

Attendees may also enjoy an evening networking reception at the Sunsphere coordinated and hosted by the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition. Meanwhile, a poster session will highlight projects or research focused on the implementation of sustainable transportation and enhanced mobility solutions.

This year’s event will feature the annual alternative fuel vehicle and equipment showcase, where past participants have exhibited electric, hybrid, propane, compressed or liquefied natural gas, biofuel, and hydrogen vehicles and equipment from across the state. A new addition to the agenda is an alternative fuel vehicle ride and drive session, held outside of the conference center. 

Registration includes access to all forum sessions, luncheons, the alternative fuel vehicle showcase, and a networking reception. Here are additional registration details:

  • An advanced conference registration rate of $35 will be available until September 17, at which point registration will increase to $45 per person. Day-of registration will cost $50 per person.
  • Students may register for the event at a discounted rate of $5 and must present their student IDs at the time of event sign-in.

For those interested in attending, registration is now open. To learn more, explore the preliminary draft agenda or the event’s official website. If you have additional questions, please contact STF&E organizers at TDEC.OEP@tn.gov or 615-253-1947.