UT’s “Spark Incubator Program” announces new cohort

The “Spark Incubator Program,” a strategic initiative within the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park at Cherokee Farm, has selected eight early stage tech companies to participate in its 2022-2023 program.

The two-year program, led by John Bruck and Carol Seamons, was launched in September 2020 to provide some of the East Tennessee region’s most promising hard tech start-ups with access to top quality laboratory space at the UT Research Park, as well as mentoring, guidance, and introductions to potential customers, partners, and investors.

As evidence of that commitment, five of the eight are either current participants or alumni of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and a sixth just completed the inaugural “Spark Cleantech Accelerator.”

“Few regions of the country have the technology assets that we do here in East Tennessee,” said John Bruck, Director of the Spark Innovation Center. “The State’s flagship land grant university and the nation’s largest science and energy laboratory located within 20 miles of each other provide a unique fusion of location, assets, collaboration, research, and entrepreneurial guidance – everything that a start-up needs to be successful.”

The 2022-2023 selected companies are:

  • Addiguru, LLC, represented by President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shuchi “SK” Khurana, provides in-situ monitoring technology for the additive manufacturing (AM) processes;
  • American Nanotechnologies Inc., represented by Chief Technology Officer Zach Gault, leverages low-cost, high-purity semiconducting carbon nanotubes to make state of the art chemical sensors;
  • BECQ/Neutroelectricrepresented by Founder and CEO Danielle Castley, has developed a high-temperature, lightweight neutron-shielding technology that will help reduce costs and increase safety in the nuclear industry;
  • FC Renew LLC, represented by CEO Philip Stuckey, has developed a novel low-cost process to restore degraded hydrogen fuel cells;
  • Holocene Climate Corporation, represented by Co-Founders Anca Timofte and Tobias Ruesch, is harnessing organic chemistry to remove COfrom the atmosphere;
  • Orion Therapeutics Inc., represented by Co-Founder and CEO Richard ‘Trey’ Fisher, ensures the clinical success of early stage RNA therapy and vaccine development programs;
  • Qubit Engineering Inc., represented by Co-Founder and CEO Marouane Salhi, a quantum computing company that has developed new optimization methods for micro-siting for wind turbines; and
  • RAEV, represented by President and CEO David Castley, is developing an urban transportation system of small, shareable electric vehicles.

The first five relocated to the region to participate in the “Innovation Crossroads” program.

During the two year program, the Spark Innovation Center provides companies access to top quality lab space, business model development and introductions to early stage investors, connections with top researchers at UT, introductions to other entrepreneurial service providers in the region, mentoring through the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council’s (TAEBC) Mentor Network, and connections with established companies in the Research Park and throughout the region.

“This is really a great group of companies, focusing on many different technologies, including materials science, quantum computing, energy storage, carbon capture, and biotechnology,” said Tom Rogers, President and CEO of the UT Research Park. “Our goal at Spark is to provide them with the facilities and resources they need to successfully commercialize their technologies and grow their companies here in Knoxville.”

Among other offerings, Spark Incubator companies are able to access both student interns and prototyping services at UT, Knoxville at discounted rates through the Center for Materials Processing, as well as participate in monthly progress meetings and tailored workshops on topics such as “Being a CEO or Hiring One,” “Funding Strategies for Early Stage Companies,” and “Business Engagement.”

The Spark Innovation Center is also a member of the Heartland Climate Tech Partnership, which works across the entire Midwest regional startup community to help make sure that the region can grow and retain its very best entrepreneurial start-ups.

Funding support for the Spark Incubator Program is provided by UT, Tennessee Valley Authority, ORNL, U.S. Department of Energy, Launch Tennessee, and TAEBC.