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.

These are exciting times for Anna Douglas and SkyNano

(Crossposted from Teknovation.biz)

This is a pretty exciting time for Anna Douglas, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SkyNano LLC, a member of the first cohort of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” (IC) program.

She just won two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants that total $2.7 million, including cost share for one, and has two other smaller projects lined-up for the start-up founded in January 2017 and focused on manufacturing of low-cost, high-value carbon materials from carbon dioxide.

It’s an understatement to say there are a lot of moving parts for SkyNano right now, but they align very well with the long-term goals of the recent Vanderbilt University PhD who quickly became the public face of the IC initiative shortly after her arrival in Knoxville in May 2017.

“These are two pretty different projects,” Douglas says of the DOE-funded activities. One is a Phase I $200,000 Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) award that was announced May 20 as part of a $53 million package; the other, announced June 16, is a $2.5 million research and development project that requires a $500,000 cost-share match. SkyNano was one of 11 recipients of the latter that distributed $17 million with most of it going to universities including three awards alone to institutions in Kentucky.

Keep reading Anna Douglas’ full story.

Innovation Crossroads cohort one is winding down. Here are updates on their progress.

As Oak Ridge National Laboratory finalizes selections for the third cohort in its “Innovation Crossroads” program that accelerates new energy start-ups, Teknovation.biz wanted to provide an update on the three members of the inaugural cohort. They arrived here in May 2017 and will complete their two-year Fellowships soon. Here are updates from SkyNano’s Anna Douglas:

  • When you were selected for the inaugural cohort of ORNL’s “Innovation Crossroads” program, how would you describe the state of your technology and where you were in standing-up a start-up?At the time we were selected, we had just filed the legal framework for setting-up a start-up and were still working through a lot of the market analysis. We had demonstrated initial proof of concept at Vanderbilt for the use of the technology to produce carbon nanotubes ~ 23 nm in diameter.

 

  • Now, more than three-fourths of the way through the two-year experience, how would you answer the question?We learned a LOT through customer discovery during the first six months of the program, which led to a pivot from our initial technical focus, and are now fully committed to scaling the technology in the next 12 months and getting samples out into the marketplace. At this point, we have doubled our team with the addition of two full-time team members who have been instrumental in the technical progress we’ve made towards scaling our electrochemical growth process.

Read more at Teknovation.biz. Here are updates from Active Energy Systems and Yellowstone Energy.

Two Innovation Crossroads Entrepreneurs named to Forbes 30 Under 30

(Originally published: Teknovation.biz)

Two Entrepreneurs in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads”initiative are among 600 individuals selected from across the U.S. and Canada for the “Forbes 30 Under 30” cohort for 2019.

Anna Douglas, Co-Founder of SkyNano Technologies, and Megan O’Connor, Co-Founder on Nth Cycle, made the prestigious list. They were two of 30 individuals selected from the energy sector, one of 20 industries that Forbes identified for recognition. A total of 30 up and coming leaders was identified in each industry group.

In making the announcement yesterday, Forbes said that “Everything old is new again with the 2019 edition of the “Forbes 30 Under 30,” our annual list chronicling the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada. From creating milk without cows to trucks without drivers, these innovators are shaking up some of the world’s stodgiest industries. Spanning 20 different industries, our collection of 600 young leaders and entrepreneurs embodies how fresh vision, powerful technology and unwavering optimism can combine into earthshaking companies and movements. From finance to food, fashion to philanthropy, these risk-takers are forever changing how America does business.”

Forbes chose the 600 from thousands of nominees through what it says was a “three-layer process that relies on the knowledge and authority of our wide-reaching community, skilled reporters and expert judges.” The magazine’s Editors worked closely with a panel of judges that included well-recognized individuals like Tory Burch (Art & Style), Craig Newmark (Education), Padma Lakshmi (Food & Drink), Jim Hackett and Eren Ozmen (Manufacturing & Industry), David Axelrod (Law & Policy), Kirsten Green (Retail & Ecommerce), Thomas Tull (Sports), and Arlan Hamilton and Alexis Ohanian (Venture Capital).

Read more here.

Technov865 to showcase latest UTRF, ORNL technologies

Technov865 is promising a full line-up of the latest tech coming out of East Tennessee from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation.

The event will be held Tuesday, September 19 from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST at The Square Room in Market Square in Downtown Knoxville.

It will be an exclusive opportunity to meet and hear from the inventors, and the event will also feature several speakers with unique perspectives on innovation.

Jetta Wong, Senior Advisor at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), will serve as featured keynote speaker.

Jetta has over 14 years of experience developing programs and policies that support energy and environment technologies. Prior to joining LACI, Jetta Wong established the Office of Technology Transitions for the United States Department of Energy and served as its first Director. In that capacity, she assisted the private sector, state and local governments, universities, laboratories and other stakeholders and engaged with the Department on the commercialization of new technology.

If you’re interested in attending Technov865, click here.

Along with the inventors, leaders from TVA, UTRF, and ORNL will speak about the exciting innovation and technology happening at their organizations including:

  • Joe Hoagland, TVA’s Vice President of Stakeholder Relations
  • Stacey Patterson, Interim University of Tennessee Vice President for Research
  • Tom Rogers, Director of Industrial Partnerships & Economic Development at ORNL
  • Mike Paulus, Director of the Technology Transfer Office at ORNL

The Innovation Crossroads’ innovators will also be presenting during this event. Innovation Crossroads is a program based at ORNL that matches aspiring energy entrepreneurs with the experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take their world-changing ideas from R&D to the marketplace.

Anna Douglas with SkyNano Technologies, Mitchell Ishmael with Active Energy Systems, and Matthew Ellis and Samuel Shaner with Yellowstone Energy were selected to transform their ideas into clean energy companies with financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). These three teams will be giving presentations during Technov865.

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and Launch Tennessee provide non-exclusive business mentoring services to the Innovation Crossroads innovators.

Anna Douglas will also be pitching on Startup Day 2017 happening September 21, 2017 at the U.S. Cellular Stage at the Bijou Theatre. She will be competing for up to $15,000 in cash prizes, including the Startup Day 2017 Crowd Favorite Prize presented by SunTrust Bank.