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.

Remembering TAEBC’s 2019 accomplishments, what to expect in the new year

As the new year looms upon us and we welcome a new decade, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) is celebrating its 2019 achievements.

By championing advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy, TAEBC is positioning the state and its members to increase our leadership role in the $1.4 trillion global advanced energy market.

TAEBC wants to reinforce our commitment to our members and stakeholders:

  • Inform the national energy agenda.
  • Help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.
  • Foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups.
  • Support TVA and our local power companies’ efforts to become the energy companies of the future.

We look forward to our annual membership meeting in Franklin, but until then let’s reflect on our top accomplishments from 2019.

  1. SkyNano and Active Energy Systems became the third and fourth graduates from the Energy Mentor Network. The companies were part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads cohort one, where they are now recognized as honored alumni.
  2. TAEBC held its Annual Membership Meeting in Franklin, Tennessee at Schneider Electrics headquarters. TAEBC members, stakeholders and supporters heard from Schneider Electric’s Vice President of Utility & Microgrid Solutions Don Wingate, who touched on the new energy landscape emerging with more microgrid implementation happening across the United States. Attendees also heard from Chris Hansen, TVA’s Director of Pricing Strategy & Origination, who spotlighted the energy company’s efforts to meet renewable energy expectations of Google and Facebook for new data centers the companies were constructing in the Valley. Both global giants are known for their commitments to sustainability and clean energy.
  3. During the annual meeting, renowned Tennessee collaborator and partnerships builder Tom Ballard received the Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award named in his honor. The Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. TAEBC announced the Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award will be an annual award, accepting nominations every year and presenting the winner with the honor at future annual meetings.
  4. TAEBC had a full calendar year filled with events that engaged both members and stakeholders alike including:
    1. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper, Michael Garrabrant with Stone Mountain Technologies and Launch Tennessee executives were at Tennessee’s Capitol Hill earlier this year for Innovation Week on the Hill, connecting entrepreneurs and innovators with legislators to discuss key challenges facing small businesses.
    2. The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council hosted a new “Ask Me Anything” event that gave attendees the opportunity to “ask anything” from some of the most well-known energy CEOs in the state, including Matt Kisber of Silicon Ranch Corporation. The “Ask Me Anything” session provided intimate, candid discussions between attendees and energy CEOS where attendees could “ask anything” related to business, strategy, work-life balance and everything in between.
    3. TAEBC held a Lunch & Learn with TVA board member Jeff Smith and new TVA CEO Jeff Lyash to discuss what they envisioned in the future for the energy company and giving members the opportunity to have an open dialogue with TVA leadership.
    4. The Energy Mentor Network’s mentors had an opportunity to meet the Innovation Crossroads recently inducted third cohort, where they heard pitches from the energy startups. The event also featured a panel discussion with the Innovation Crossroads’ cohort one alumni as they gave updates on their businesses and what their experience was like in Innovation Crossroads.
    5. Launch Tennessee, in partnership with Life Science Tennessee and the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, invited our Energy Mentor Network mentors and companies to an evening of networking in appreciation for the mentors’ generous service to the Mentor Networks.
  5. TAEBC’s Utility Relations Committee met with TVPPA, TVIC, & AVI to present Tennessee’s advanced energy asset inventory.
  6. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper met with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s office staff in Washington, DC to present a briefing on Tennessee’s robust advanced energy economy which employs more than 358,000 Tennesseans, contributes $39.7B to the state’s GDP, and includes more than 18,000 businesses.
  7. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper also met with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development deputy commissioners and senior staff, new Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s staff, various TVA leaders, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation staff to educate them on Tennessee’s advanced energy economy and present an asset inventory briefing.
  8. Opportunities in Energy 2019, presented by Verizon, featured a presentation from Majid Khan, Managing Director of Strategy & Business Development from Verizon to talk about 5G and the future of energy in our region and the nation as a whole. A panel discussion moderated by Dr. Greg Peterson, Professor & Department Head at the University of Tennessee in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, with Khan, Greg Thompson, Senior Manager of Smart Grid Services and Digital Engagements at Schneider Electric, as well as with Gary Brinkworth, Director of Enterprise Research and Technology Innovation at TVA focused primarily on the opportunities and challenges of how 5G can impact the energy landscape here in Tennessee.
  9. Welcome New Members: AVI, East Tennessee Economic Council, Giridhar Iyer, Johnson Energy Solutions, Piper Communications, Smart Trips, Stone Mountain Technologies, Verizon and XMI.
  10. TAEBC submitted comments to TVA in April regarding, at the time, its draft 2019 IRP. TVA’s Board of Directors approved the 2019 Final Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) later in the year. TVA updated its previous IRP to allow for a more dependable and flexible power-generation system that effectively leverages more renewable energy sources and distributed energy resources. According to the 2019 IRP’s Executive Summary, TVA found:
    • There is a need for new capacity in all scenarios to replace expiring or retiring capacity.
    • Solar expansion plays a substantial role in all futures.
    • Gas, storage and demand response additions provide reliability and/or flexibility.
    • No baseload resources (designed to operate around the clock) are added, highlighting the need for operational flexibility in the resource portfolio.
    • Additional coal retirements occur in certain futures.
    • Energy efficiency (EE) levels depend on market depth and cost-competitiveness.
    • Wind could play a role if it becomes cost-competitive.
    • In all cases, TVA will continue to provide for economic growth in the Tennessee Valley

As an added bonus two TAEBC board members, Steve Seifried and Mary Beth Hudson, wrote op-eds on Tennessee’s thriving advanced energy economy.

Happy Holidays from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council!

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.