POSTPONED: UT Research Foundation Alumni Startup Showcase

This event has been postponed.

Join us for a showcase celebrating UT technologies and entrepreneurship! RSVP Here!

Come celebrate UT graduate students who have licensed UT technologies and learn about the challenges and rewards of starting a tech-based business.

The showcase will include a Q&A session with Interim President Randy Boyd, Chancellor Donde Plowman, and the startup founders, covering a range of topics such as the process leading to company formation, lessons learned, and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

The program will start promptly at 5PM.

2020 UTRF Technology Maturation Grant Application Deadline

The annual maturation program aims to assist researchers in advancing new technologies on the path to market by awarding up to $15,000 to the highest ranking proposals.

Open to researchers, faculty, staff, and students across all University of Tennessee campuses and institutes.

Proposals are due to Campus Research Offices by 5PM, October 24, 2019.

Learn more here.

DO YOU KNOW … how some of our Innov865 Alliance members support entrepreneurship in Knoxville?

For the past few weeks, we have been featuring our valued Innov865 Alliance members as part of our DID YOU KNOW social media series. One of the main questions we asked each of our members was: “How does your organization promote entrepreneurship in Knoxville?” Here are some of their responses: 

Maha Krishnamurthy, Vice President

University of Tennessee Research Foundation 

“UTRF promotes the growth and success of entrepreneurs via various business support resources and services including: educational workshops, networking events, pitch competitions, mentorship, grant funding opportunities, and physical space in the UTRF Business Incubator.”

Dan Miller, Program Lead

Oak Ridge National Lab

“ORNL has a number of programs that startups can use to access lab resources at little or no cost. Many startups in East Tennessee have taken advantage of these programs.  Also, ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads program has recruited 16 high-tech entrepreneurs to-date to move to East Tennessee for two years to do collaborative work with ORNL R&D staff to commercialize energy and advanced manufacturing technologies.”

Jill Van Beke, Chief Program Officer

Launch Tennessee

“LaunchTN provides support and resources for other local entrepreneurial organizations, including the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and the Innovation Crossroads program. We bring resources in five areas: capital, market access, commercialization, talent, and environment, complementing the work of Alliance members. Plus, we share the Tennessee entrepreneurial story nationwide, and we let innovators, investors, and ecosystem builders across the state — and beyond — know about the resources each of our partners offers.”

Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer

PYA is the most visible way we support the entrepreneurial community by publishing articles about local entrepreneurs, initiatives, and programs. It was launched January 23, 2012 and publishes almost daily other than holidays and around the end of each calendar year. Less known is the accounting work we do at PYA to help participants in ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads program and UT’s Vol Court program.”

Jim Biggs, Executive Director

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

“KEC serves as the front door for entrepreneurs in our region, and a resource for anyone looking to start or grow a business here. Through programming, networking events and mentorship, we work to ensure that entrepreneurs have access to the talent, capital, and customers they need to succeed.” 

Lynn Youngs, Executive Director

UT Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation

“Through our work on campus and beyond, we supply entrepreneurial talent to the ecosystem. We play a key role in supplying vetted startup companies to the region, and those student-created companies come with teams that help support the region at points beyond their initial startup.”

Thank you to all of our wonderful members! Come see us during Innov865 Week 2019 from September 23-27 — and don’t forget to register for Startup Day on September 24th at The Mill and Mine, starting at 2:00 p.m. ET!

UTC Research Dialogues: UTRF & Technology Transfer

UTRF will present on Technology Transfer at UT as part of the UTC ReSEARCH Dialogues conference. This event showcases the scholarship and creative endeavors of more than 600 UTC faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, and staff from all campus programs and disciplines.

Click here for more information.

This event will be held in the Signal Mountain Room at the UTC University Center.


UTRF & Technology Transfer at UT

The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) will host an informational Lunch & Learn session at UTC to discuss an overview of UTRF services and the technology transfer process at UT. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about how the process works.

Discussion topics include:

  • Overview of UTRF
  • Intellectual Property
  • The Technology Transfer Process at UT
  • Invention Disclosure Enterprise Application
  • Resources for Researchers & Entrepreneurs

Innov865 Happy Hour discusses customer development, customer acquisition

Brandon Bruce, Co-founder of Cirrus Insight led an engaging discussion with Jenna Johns, COO of RDI Technologies and Dr. Graham Taylor, President of T&T Scientific talking about customer development and customer acquisition during a recent Innov865 Happy Hour hosted by UTRF.

Both Johns and Taylor are established entrepreneurs in Knoxville. Each of them are Startup Day veterans having pitched before a panel of investor judges and the greater Knoxville entrepreneurial community in years past.

They were nominated for the 2017 Innov865 Traction Award, presented by UT Federal Credit Union. The award is given to a Startup Day alum who has gained the most momentum over the past few years, and Johns won the award back in September.

RDI Technologies has patented a noncontact video camera-based technology platform that allows users to measure motion, vibration, deflection, and displacement not visible to the human eye. Unlike traditional contact monitoring systems, RDI’s technology measures data in real time, turning virtually every pixel in the camera’s view into a sensor capable of measuring vibration or motion with sub pixel accuracy.

Meanwhile T&T Scientific is a company that produces low-cost, single use liposome extrusion devices that simplify the process of preparing liposomes for research laboratories, manufacturing facilities, and clinical settings. Compared to other commercially available extrusion platforms, T&T Scientific’s NanoSizer (formerly LipX) technology is ready to use out of the package and does not require any assembly or cleaning.

During the Innov865 Happy Hour, Bruce asked Johns and Taylor when they received their first customers, how many customers they have to date, and if they experienced any pivots in the customer discovery process.

Johns elaborated that RDI Technologies first clients started coming in in August 2016, and they’ve since grown to 120 customers to date. But during the process, they did have to pivot.

“We started as a service company. We were taking out what we had invented and we were testing it and figuring out how the customer and end-user would want to use it. We got paid for that service, and we did it for about a year,” said Johns. “But every customer we had we heard ‘Well this looks so easy, why can’t I do it myself?’ So, we decided to take some time to work on our patenting strategy and made sure we had everything locked up in development, and we created the product and launched it for our customers and now we don’t do service at all,” said Johns.

Johns said that their product is sent to plants all across the U.S. and internationally, and 120 customers may not seem like a lot but since RDI Technologies’ systems run in the range of $30,000 each, it stands out. Dr. Taylor went next.

“T&T Scientific technically was founded September 1, 2015, so we just hit our two year mark,” said Dr. Taylor. “We consider April 2016 our first launch, and we started with manual, handheld extruders marketing to researchers in government labs, academic labs, and universities,” said Dr. Taylor.

Dr. Taylor elaborated that a perk with his product was that they didn’t have to go through the FDA to begin selling it, and they were able to complete a few preliminary trials and get some feedback to make them better.

“Just this past summer we officially launched our extrusion equipment, they’re automated devices,” said Dr. Taylor. “It’s nice to start with a manual, handheld extruder and when customers are ready we can take it to the next level with an automated machine,” said Dr. Taylor.

Dr. Taylor has already acquired 150 customers for T&T Scientific’s manual extruders and a few customers for the company’s automated devices as well.


Technov865 is a showcase of the latest upcoming technologies in our area from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF). This is a unique opportunity to meet and hear from the inventors behind the technologies. The event will also feature several speakers with unique perspectives on innovation.

Featured Keynote Speaker: Jetta Wong, Senior Advisor, Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI)

Best Practices for Technology Entrepreneurs & Institutions

Jetta has over 14 years of experience developing programs and policies that support energy and environment technologies. Prior to joining LACI, Jetta Wong established the Office of Technology Transitions for the United States Department of Energy and served as its first Director. In that capacity, she assisted the private sector, state and local governments, universities, laboratories and other stakeholders and engaged with the Department on the commercialization of new technology. Read more about Jetta here.

Along with the inventors, leaders from TVA, UTRF, and ORNL will speak about the exciting innovation and technology happening at their organizations including:

  • Joe Hoagland, TVA’s Vice President of Stakeholder Relations
  • Stacey Patterson, Interim University of Tennessee Vice President for Research
  • Tom Rogers, Director of Industrial Partnerships & Economic Development at ORNL
  • Mike Paulus, Director of the Technology Transfer Office at ORNL

Register for the event here.








Rise & Grind highlights the importance, financial advantages of leadership diversity in the workforce

Coffee, donuts, and an engaging conversation held at UTRF’s Business Incubator showcased the need for increased flexibility and diversity in the workforce.

On Wednesday’s Rise & Grind event the audience became acquainted with Kim Seals, General Partner of MomSource Network investor The JumpFund and Courtney Jones Startup Day alum & Founder of the MomSource Network.

MomSource Network is a startup focused on seeing women achieve their ideal work/life blend. The company has two separate parts to its business. Part one is a tech platform focused on development and training for women as they navigate their journey in and out of the workforce. MomSource Network also provides a gateway of progressive employers who are willing to use their skill set in a flexible full-time, permanent, or part-time remote capacity.

The other half of the company is providing consulting services to those progressive employers who are mindful about attracting and retaining great female talent.

The JumpFund’s mission is to invest women’s capital in female-led southeastern companies with growth potential in order to generate a strong financial return and elevate the role of women in business.

The JumpFund invested in MomSource Network about two years ago, and Kim Seals along with her sister Pam made a sidecar investment as well.

“There’s a lot of data that supports that there is a need for women to invest in women, and it can produce a good ROI,” said Seals.

During the Rise & Grind event Seals recited striking statistics that highlight the positive financial outcomes from employing a woman within a company’s leadership.

According to a recent MacKenzie survey, companies with at least one female founder are performing 63% better than investments with all male-led companies.

“We want to see diversity in that leadership, and one of the key reasons is that most purchasing decisions made in the household are made by females,” said Seals.

Seals brought up that 80% of all purchasing decisions in the household are made by women. If a company doesn’t have a female in its leadership team helping make product and strategy decisions, that business is missing a key voice of their customer.

“We’re seeing companies with women in the top leadership positions producing 47% higher returns on equity and 55% higher returns on EBIT,” said Seals.

On top of that, Courtney Jones echoed the importance of flexible employment.

“85% of people say they would be more loyal to their current employer if they were offered increased flexibility,” said Jones.

Jones mentioned that in society, women are often pushed into choosing whether to become a full-time working mother or a full-time stay at home mom.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about organizations being progressive enough to say, ‘We’re willing to offer some agile workplace arrangements if we can still get the results that we need for our business,'” said Jones.

Seals reinforced that need for flexibility after describing her background in human resources with Mercer and it’s importance at the time.

“There was a real financial ROI for our companies that we were working with at Mercer about how to keep women in the workforce,” said Seals.

Seals said Mercer quickly discovered that they needed to keep women engaged, figure out how to create that work/life blend for them because it was something their clients were asking for. Ultimately, that’s what led to her interest in MomSource Network.

Rise & Grind was hosted by UTRF, Three Roots Capital, and Best Behavior Creative Club

UTRF, ORNL planning “Technov865” event on September 19

(Note: This article was originally published on

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are joining forces to host a technology-focused showcase during this month’s “Innov865 Week” celebration.

The event, dubbed “Technov865,” will focus on the latest technologies coming out of the region’s two major research enterprises as well as those from TVA. It is set for the Square Room on Market Square, starting at 2:30 p.m. September 19, and ending with a one-hour networking event that begins at 5 p.m.

“This is a unique opportunity to meet and hear from the inventors behind the technologies,” said Stacey Patterson, Interim UT Vice President of Research and Vice President of UTRF.

Jetta Wong, Senior Advisor at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and the former leader of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Technology Transfer, will keynote the event. Other presenters include Joe Hoagland, TVA Vice President of Stakeholder Relations; Mike Paulus, ORNL’s Director of Technology Transfer; and three of the entrepreneurs in ORNL’s inaugural “Innovation Crossroads” program.

“This is really a great opportunity to get a quick glimpse of some of the best new technologies at both ORNL and UT, and to learn more about how you can get engaged in tech-based startup activity” said Tom Rogers, ORNL’s Director of Industrial and Economic Development Partnerships.

Read the full article here.

Rise and Grind, Hosted by Three Roots Capital

Free coffee and donuts! Yum!

If that’s not enough reason to attend, there will be an interview and Q/A session with Courtney Jones, founder of MomSource Network, and Kim Seals, a board member of MomSource Network and general partner of MomSource Network investor The JumpFund. They will be discussing entrepreneurship, raising capital, investor/operator relationships, and… doing those things as women.

RSVP for Rise & Grind Here.

Founded in August 2013, MomSource Network is an online community that provides continuing education, virtual networking and a gateway to progressive employers offering flexible work options. The JumpFund provides necessary capital for women entrepreneurs to ignite growth ventures throughout the Southeast.

Sponsors for Rise & Grind include: