Innovation Crossroads Showcase webinar emphasizes value of East Tennessee entrepreneurship

This year’s Innovation Crossroads Showcase emphasized the value of statewide partnerships and entrepreneurship in the East Tennessee region. Presented by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and LaunchTN, the virtual event took place during Innov865 Week 2020.  

Kicking off the event, TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper spoke about TAEBC’s partnership with LaunchTN and creation of the Energy Mentor Network. The Energy Mentor Network program’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Piper highlighted the accomplishments of program graduates, including Solar Site Design, SkyNano Technologies, Stone Mountain Technologies, and Active Energy Systems.  

Afterward, Piper moderated a fireside chat with Van Tucker, LaunchTN’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, where they discussed Tucker’s background, LaunchTN’s work in the state, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem of East Tennessee.  

“I’m really proud of the work that is being done in East Tennessee,” Tucker remarked. 

Speaking about what gives her hope for the future, Tucker said that while there are plenty of challenges and problems that have arisen due to COVID-19, she believes “this is the moment for innovators and entrepreneurs” to rise up.

“Entrepreneurs are, I believe, the best chance we have of rapid economic recovery in our nation at the moment,” she said. “And they need to be given the resources they need to grow and thrive and help contribute to that economic recovery.”

Later, Dan Miller, Director, Innovation Crossroads, spoke about the Innovation Crossroads program and upcoming Cohort Five application deadline. Based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Innovation Crossroads program leverages ORNL’s scientific resources and capabilities and connects the nation’s top innovators with experts, mentors, and networks in technology-related fields to take world-changing ideas from research and development to the marketplace. 

Miller then introduced Innovation Crossroads Cohort Four startups for their pitches. Attendees heard pitches from Actinic, AquaQuant Laboratories, Becq, PixelEXX Systems, and Quantum Lock Technologies.

Mitchell Ishmael, Cohort One alumni and co-founder of Active Energy Systems, moderated a panel discussion with Cohort Two alumni as they provided updates on their businesses and reflected on their time in the Innovation Crossroad and Energy Mentor Network programs. Panelists included Don DeRosa of Eonix, Shane McMahon of Lux Semiconductors, Justin Nussbaum of Ascend Manufacturing, and Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle.

“The Knoxville area in general is extremely supportive,” Nussbaum said. “Everyone that I have worked with around here is always willing to help and provide feedback. It’s just been a great area to build a company in because of that assistance.” 

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network or become a mentor, click here. To learn more about Innovation Crossroads or apply for Cohort Five before the October 31 deadline, follow this link.

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.

Cleantech startup Active Energy Systems maps path toward market

(Originally published on Venture Nashville Connections)

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MITCH ISHMAEL PhD and his colleagues at Active Energy Systemsare working to solve one of the world’s biggest energy problems in a lab space so small that one can nearly touch its opposite walls with both hands.

During an interview for this story, Co-Founder Ishmael and a visiting journalist squeezed between a desk bearing the company’s first and second prototypes and a window overlooking the parking lot of Knox County’s Fairview Technology Center (FTC).

“I think it used to be the principal’s office,” when the building served as a schoolhouse, said Ishmael.

The FTC incubator that provides office and lab space for Active Energy sits just outside Knoxville city limits and about 10 miles from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The incubator also supports seven other startups led by entrepreneurs fresh from doctoral and post-doctoral studies as they pursue commercialization of Clean Energy technologies with assistance from the two-year-old Innovation Crossroads(IC) program.

IC is a public-private partnership created and managed by ORNL, with backing from units of the U.S. Department of Energy. Federal funding for ORNL’s IC program has thus far totaled nearly $7MM.

The IC will begin taking applications for its 2019 Clean Energy cohort in September.

A rundown on all participating startups and related comments from program lead Tom Rogers are in our accompanying story, here.

Read more here.