ARC Announces $600,000 Grant to The Spark Innovation Center

Knoxville, Tenn.– The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced today it will award $600,000 to the Spark Innovation Center through its POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative, which directs federal resources to economic diversification projects in Appalachian communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries.

The Spark Innovation Center (Spark) is a strategic initiative of the University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm. Spark’s mission is to support, attract, and retain the nation’s most promising technology startup companies by providing access to top quality lab space, expert mentoring, programming and guidance, prototyping resources, and sources of early-stage capital. The Spark Innovation Center launched in 2020 to enable advanced tech entrepreneurs coming out of research institutions such as the University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to stay and grow in East Tennessee.

“We are very grateful to ARC for its support for our Spark initiative,” said UT Research Park President and CEO Tom Rogers. “Spark is already working closely with more than 20 advanced tech and clean energy startups in the region. This support will increase our capability to serve startups that will bring high paying jobs to Appalachia and advance the region’s transition away from a coal economy.””

The Spark Innovation Center is currently supported by the University of Tennessee, U.S. Department of Energy, the City of Knoxville, Launch Tennessee, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Truist Foundation. The Spark Centerworks in close partnership with the region’s Innov865 Alliance and the Heartland Climate Tech Partnership.

“The projects receiving grants in this round of POWER funding show that the future of Appalachia’s coal-impacted communities is economically diverse and innovative,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Projects like these are resulting in life-changing transformations, which in turn not only provides new economic opportunities, but brings a renewed sense of hope and purpose across our Appalachian Region.”

The Spark award is one of four POWER grants announced in Tennessee, and one of 64 projects across the ARC region totaling $54 million. ARC plans to release a notice of solicitations of applications (NOSA) for the POWER Initiative in early 2024. To learn more about today’s awardees and their work to boost industries that create a stronger economic future for Appalachia, visit


About the Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development entity of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 423 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

About the UT Research Park

The UT Research Park serves as a gateway for both public and private organizations seeking to collaborate with the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. The Park offers an ideal location directly across the Tennessee River from UT’s flagship campus, and provides the right connections to foster successful partnerships.

About the Spark Innovation Center

The Spark Innovation Center is an initiative of the University of Tennessee Research Park, and builds on the facilities and expertise at the University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Spark offers promising energy technology companies access to top-quality lab space, expert mentoring, and coordinating support services from partner organizations in the region. For more information, visit

Lilly Tench, Spark Innovation Center Assistant Director
UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm