2023 Spark Incubator Program Update


  • 7 Spark companies have established new working labs at IAMM.
  • 5 companies have hired additional staff:
    • 4 were UTK students or alumni
    • 1 staff hire is relocating to Knoxville from Houston, TX
    • 5 Spark companies are seeking additional interns or permanent staff for Knoxville jobs; UT-Knoxville continues to be a critical source for staffing
    • Underscores Spark Innovation Center’s impact on fostering growth in high-tech careers in Knoxville and retaining UTK talent
  • Many milestones the Spark Incubator companies achieved came with access to state-of the-art equipment via the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing


  • Awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance our technology for direct air capture. Holocene partners with ORNL for this grant’s total funding of $1.5 million. This is in addition to the Innovation Crossroad program, fostering the close collaboration between ORNL and Holocene.
  • Completed new lab set up in its Spark Innovation Center lab space.  The lab provides access to highly specialized analytical methods needed to deepen staff’s understanding and further de-risk its technology. Based on the experimental results, a conceptual design for Holocene’s pilot plant was established.
  • Hired three new employees- a research associate, a business operations associate, and a chemical engineering intern from the University of Tennessee – all eager and passionate to take on meaningful work.

Website: https://www.theholocene.co/


  • Identified and hired a new fractional Chief Technology Officer.
  • Launched its first project with Medtronic, a global healthcare technology firm.
  • Continue to equip clients with data for important milestones. One client, ConMed, submitted a proposal for expanded indications with the FDA using our CQI generated data.

Website: https://www.cq-insights.com/


Website: https://www.raev.tech/


  • Completed its first round of funding at $3 Million.
  • Won 2 Direct-to-Phase-2 Air Force contracts.
  • Hired its Head of Product & Brand from ExxonMobil and will be relocating to Knoxville.

Website: https://www.safire.co/

FC Renew:

  • Continues to advance its process to renew hydrogen fuel cell catalysts with its active Phase I SBIR from the U.S. Army and additional funding from LaunchTN.
  • Is currently hiring for three positions: a student intern, laboratory technician, and senior scientist.
  • Welcomed a new University of Tennessee student intern for the 2023 Spring semester.
  • Expanded its single fuel cell testing capabilities to include electrochemical impedance spectroscopy and completed installation in its new lab space at the Spark Innovation Center

Website: https://fcrenew.com/index.html


  • Received $100k SBIR Matching grant from LaunchTN, which is being used to expand our carbon nanotube characterization capabilities at its Spark lab space.
  • Continued development of printable chemical sensors in collaboration with researchers at ORNL.
  • Established collaboration with researchers at the University of Colorado-Denver to develop a continuous flow version of our materials processing technology. This collaboration will be applying for several funding opportunities in 2023, including an upcoming AFWERX proposal.
  • Reached agreement with a new Senior Research Scientist to join the team later this year. This hire will be based in Denver and work hand-in-hand with our collaborators at CU-Denver.

Website: https://www.americannano.tech/


  • Added Dr. Michael Freeman (Chairman of Surgery-UT Medical Center) to Board of Advisors.
  • Raised $70,000 in pre-seed investments.
  • Selected as 2022 MassBioDrive Cohort (Boston – Pharmaceutical based accelerator).
  • Received a nomination for PYA Tom Ballard Award.
  • Awarded a $8,000 Microgrant from LaunchTN.
  • 2022 National Science Foundation STTR Grant applicant (referred for funding by program director).
  • Proof of Concept study completed using lab/process/mRNA in Orion’s lab space in the Spark Innovation Center.

Website: https://orionthx.com/