Spark Cleantech Accelerator Selects First Cohort

Spark Cleantech Accelerator Selects First Cohort of Companies

New 12-week program will support early stage cleantech businesses and drive commercialization of their technologies in Tennessee and throughout the Midwest

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (May 12, 2022) – The Spark Cleantech Accelerator (Spark CTA), a strategic initiative within the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park at Cherokee Farm, has selected the first six companies to participate in its inaugural program this summer.

The accelerator, directed by John Bruck, Director of the Spark Innovation Center, and Carol Seamons, Director of Engagement for the Spark Innovation Center, will lead the companies through a comprehensive curriculum including customer discovery, product-market fit, financial modeling, organizational development, and investor outreach.

“We are honored to welcome six diverse, multi-faceted innovators and technologies in our first cohort of companies.” said John Bruck, Director of Spark Innovation Center. “The partnerships developed within this program with fellow startups, investors and the University of Tennessee will play a crucial role in the ongoing development of Knoxville’s entrepreneurial scene.”

The UT Research Park will host the Spark Cleantech Accelerator at its facility just across the Tennessee River from UT’s flagship campus, offering an ideal location for entrepreneurs to collaborate with top talent at UT and within the growing cleantech hub in Knoxville. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the City of Knoxville, Launch Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the UT Research Foundation.

“We are very excited to welcome these outstanding entrepreneurs and cleantech companies to Knoxville,” said Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon. “The Spark Cleantech Accelerator is helping the city address its goals of innovation and sustainability, further expanding East Tennessee’s tech and clean energy economy.”

The selected companies include:

  • frakktal (Houston, TX), founded by jhana porter, PhD, which is developing a no-waste manufacturing process that begins with 95 percent locally recycled materials such as tires and plastics;
  • GenH (Boston, MA), co-founded by Siddarth Pannir, which has developed a rapidly deployable modular system to produce hydro-electric power from small dams and canals;
  • Green Llama (Johnson City, TN), co-founded by Kay Baker and Matt Keasey, PhD, which is reducing the environmental footprint of consumer cleaning products by producing eco-friendly cleaning materials and sustainable packaging system;
  • Groundstar (Cincinnati, OH), founded by Ed Chan, PhD, which is a carbon capture technology focused on functionalized graphene for use in hard-to-abate emission sources;
  • RAEV (Philadelphia, PA), founded by David Castley, which is developing an urban transportation system of small, shareable electric vehicles; and
  • Windfall (Knoxville, TN), founded by Ryan Ginder, PhD, which has developed a system to recycle and recover high purity fiberglass from wind blades and automotive composite scrap.

The Spark Cleantech Accelerator program will begin on Monday, June 6, 2022, and will run through late August, 2022, culminating with a Demo Day that will be open to the public.

Among its offerings, the 12-week, in-person program provides prototyping services through the University of Tennessee’s Center for Materials Processing, mentoring and one-on-one support from experts in various industries, training workshops, including individual one-on-one meetings with mentors, connections with customers, investors, strategic partners, suppliers, universities and national laboratories, and partnerships with key organizations in the region. The accelerator will also be supported the Energy Mentor Network, a program managed by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC).

“The State of Tennessee’s unapparelled resources— including the largest science and energy national laboratory in the Department of Energy system, a top-notch university, more than 20,000 energy-focused businesses, along with a strong workforce, supportive state government, and a great central location—make us uniquely positioned to become one of fastest growing cleantech hubs in the country, said Cortney Piper, Executive Director of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC). “The Energy Mentor Network, which TAEBC runs in partnership with Launch Tennessee, will help support these startups in the many challenges they face, all the way through financial modeling and preparing for investor pitches.”

The Spark Cleantech Accelerator is a partner in the Heartland Climate Tech Partnership, a collaboration of startup programs from across the Greater Midwest Region, including Evergreen Climate Innovations and mHUB based in Chicago, and Centrepolis Accelerator based in Detroit.

For additional information about the Spark Cleantech Accelerator or the Spark Innovation Center at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, please contact John Bruck at

About 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, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Spark focuses on helping promising energy technology companies grow, offering access to top quality lab space, expert mentoring, and coordinating support services from nine partner organizations in the region.