Tennessee’s 2021-2022 Budget restores SBIR/STTR Matching Fund

SkyNano Technologies praises restoration of funds that will help advance its core technology 

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is pleased to announce Tennessee’s 2021-2022 Budget included $7,000,000 in non-recurring funding for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Matching Fund. 

This SBIR/STTR Matching Fund restoration would not have been possible without the hard work of Launch Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and other key stakeholders across the state.

“The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council applauds the General Assembly and Governor Bill Lee’s allocation of $7 million in funding for the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund,” said TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper. “TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy. One of our commitments to our members is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups, such as those in our Energy Mentor Network program. The restoration of the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund is essential to helping us meet this goal.”

Anna Douglas, Co-Founder and CEO of SkyNano Technologies, an Innovation Crossroads and Energy Mentor Network graduate, was instrumental in highlighting the need for these funds for innovative entrepreneurs in the region. Earlier this year, Douglas penned an Op-Ed in the Knoxville News Sentinel and an open letter to her state representative, highlighting her need for the SBIR/STTR Matching award. SkyNano received an SBIR Matching grant in 2020 and was counting on the restoration of these funds to support the development of its technology and cover the cost of necessary expenses that were not covered by the SBIR/STTR program.  

“We are relieved and excited that the SBIR/STTR Matching program funding has been restored in the state budget,” said Anna Douglas, Co-founder and CEO of SkyNano Technologies. “The SBIR/STTR Match program helps businesses like SkyNano thrive in the state and continue to pull in more federal SBIR/STTR funding to continue creating jobs for talented Tennesseans.” 

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Energy Mentor Network graduates secure funding to advance technologies

Active Energy Systems receives an SBIR Phase II Award, while Nth Cycle secures $3.2 million in seed funding

The Energy Mentor Network is run by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council in partnership with Launch Tennessee. Its goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise. Two of our graduates have recently secured funding to advance their technologies.

Active Energy Systems received an NSF SBIR Phase II Award

Active Energy Systems graduated from the Energy Mentor Network in 2019. The startup invented the world’s first “icephobic coating,” which creates a surface impervious to freezing water. It recently received an NSF SBIR Phase II Award to unleash the potential of water as a thermal energy storage medium for building air conditioning.

This funding will allow Active Energy Systems to create Icephobic Heat Exchange (IHEX) technology eliminating the adhesion of freezing water to cold surfaces, preventing ice buildup on the coil and realizing the power of water for low-cost, high efficiency, resilient building cooling.

Nth Cycle secured $3.2 million in seed funding

Nth Cycle graduated from the Energy Mentor Network in 2020. The startup is developing a system to cost effectively recycle lithium-ion batteries to recover the high-value metals. It secured $3.2 million in seed funding to scale its technology for battery recycling for sustainable mining. This funding will allow Nth Cycle to execute their technology roadmap and deploy several pilot projects with recyclers and mine operators early next year.

Nth Cycle was also featured in Waste360 where CEO Megan O’Connor stated, “We can process in a cost- and environmentally effective way compared to standard, existing methods. We can reduce operating costs by 75 percent and also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent [determined using a Department of Energy battery recycling model].”

Learn more about the Energy Mentor Network, its companies, and mentors here

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about our members, advanced energy news and upcoming events. Also, if you’re not already a member, become a member today!

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.

LaunchTN’s Virtual Workshop: SBIR/STTR Accounting

Congratulations! Your company has received a Phase I SBIR/STTR award. Now what? RSVP here

In this webinar, we will cover the basics required to establish a sound accounting system in Phase I, along with some basic finance rules to follow as you complete your work and draw down funding from the awarding agency. We’ll also help prepare you for a Phase II award, where indirect rates can be negotiated and more stringent rules and an audit are the norm.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program is a highly competitive federal program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in research and development that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR/STTR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization.

This workshop is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Tennessee companies receiving DOE SBIR, STTR Phase II grants

(Originally published on Department of Energy)

The Department of Energy (DOE) will award 105 grants totaling $116 million to 92 small businesses in 31 states, including some in Tennessee. 

Funded through DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, the selections are for Phase II research and development (R&D). 

Small businesses that demonstrated technical feasibility for innovations during their Phase I grants competed for funding for prototype or processes development during Phase II. 

In addition, prior Phase II awardees competed for second or third Phase II awards to continue prototype and process development. The median Phase II award is $1,100,000 for a period of two years.   

Those awardees include:

  • Coulometrics (Chattanooga)

Project Title: The development of a stabilized SEI layer for si-containing lithium ion battery anodes

  • Carbon Rivers LLC (Knoxville)

Project Title: Recovery of glass fiber reinforcement from retired wind turbine blades for recycled composite materials

Summary: An innovative process is being developed to convert waste from retired wind turbine blades, as well as other reinforced plastics, into new materials for manufacturing. If successful, this technology would allow for wind blades and other reinforced plastics to be diverted from landfills and into new lightweight materials for making products like fuel efficient vehicles.