The Spark Innovation Center assists early stage technology companies gain their footing. We provide startups with the right kinds of support they need to become successful companies and continue to grow here in East Tennessee.

September 2020

Our Current Startups


American Nanotechnologies Inc. is developing technology to isolate high-value semiconducting carbon nanotubes from raw sources which contain a mixture of metallic compounds.

CEO Will Fitzhugh is participating in ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads program, is working with the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and has submitted several SBIR grant proposals.

Chem Chip

Chem Chip, LLC produces working electrodes based upon carbon nanospike innovation developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Chem Chip has an exclusive license from ORNL, a CNMS User Agreement, and has built a team that includes the co-inventor of the technology and the founder of Reactwell. They are now building a Joint Industrial Partnership to facilitate continued materials synthesis prototyping and future activation of a U.S. manufacturing line in the Knoxville, TN region.


Eonix reduces the time and cost to develop new materials for lithium batteries and ultracapacitors using a novel high throughout, semi-autonomous technique. Founder and CTO Don DeRosa has completed ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads fellowship program, and has also been awarded grants from the State of New York, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Army.

Neptune Fluid Flow Systems

Neptune Fluid Flow Systems has developed a novel method for preparing thin films of soft material solution for cryo-TEM work, a new analytical tool of great interest to the scientific community. While they work at ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads program on material science applications, Drs. Trevor McQueen and Winnie Liang will be also working with researchers in UT’s Biology Department and at JIAM to prepare biological samples for structural characterization. Neptune has also been awarded a Department of Energy SBIR Phase I grant, a National Science Foundation SBIR Phase I grant, and a RevV! grant from the State of Tennessee.


Sky Nano, LLC produces high purity carbon nanotubes from ambient CO2 for use in multiple markets. An Innovation Crossroads graduate, Dr. Anna Douglas has also won a National Science Foundation SBIR Phase I grant, a $2.5 million Department of Energy award, and has her first commercial customer. She will be utilizing the SEM tools at UT’s Joint Institute for Advanced Materials as she continues to scale up her technology.

Qubit Engineering

Qubit Engineering is a quantum computing company that has developed new optimization methods for micro-siting for wind turbines. The quantum powered micro-siting software will considerably improve the efficiency of wind farms and reduce the overall cost of the projects. Qubit was founded by Drs. Marouane Salhi and George Siopsis.

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Why Spark?

Startup technology companies typically face a longer runway to success and profitability than other companies.

They have to identify a clear need in the marketplace, tune their technology solution to that opportunity, and often build a working prototype before engaging with initial customers. Depending on their business model, they might also need to scale up significantly to meet customer demand. This often requires several years and outside capital from investors or government agencies.

The Spark Innovation Center will help clients narrow the ‘valley of death’ by:

  • Providing access to small amounts of shared top quality laboratory space;

  • Providing business model development and introductions to early stage investors;

  • Making connections with top researchers at UT and ORNL who can help companies with their technology solutions;

  • Making introductions to other entrepreneurial service providers in the region, ensuring that Spark clients have the benefit of all available support and connections; and

  • Making connections with established companies in the Research Park and throughout the region, providing clients with opportunities to help bring potential solutions to the challenges faced by these companies.

The Spark Innovation Center will work closely with the technology transfer offices of UT and ORNL, and with ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads program, helping make sure that the region is able to retain its very best entrepreneurial startups.

A man in safety googles connects wiring to a tech experiement

Don DeRosa, founder and CTO of Eonix