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“Spark!” technology forum set for June 21 with several new twists

Spark 2016By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The upcoming “Spark!” technology forum has several new twists planned when the sixth annual edition rolls-out the afternoon of June 21.

“We’re changing it up a little bit,” said Tom Rogers, Director of Industrial and Economic Development Partnerships at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The lab and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) have teamed-up for the second year in a row to sponsor the event.

Perhaps the two most noticeable changes are the location and the more compressed and targeted agenda.

“With the advent of Innov865 and the focus locally on a one-stop shop for entrepreneurs, we want to offer Spark! on Market Square,” Rogers said. “We’re going to bring it to the community rather than asking the community to come to us.”

The program will run from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Knoxville Chamber with a networking reception to follow.

This marks the first time the program has been held outside Oak Ridge. For the first four years, it was held on the ORNL campus. The 2015 session was moved to Tech 2020 in Oak Ridge.

“It’s been an evolution,” Rogers said of the program that was launched to showcase some of ORNL’s most promising technologies to prospective licensees and industrial partners. When the event moved to Tech 2020 last year, technologies from UTRF were added.

“We will be highlighting our common research areas this year,” Stacey Patterson, UTRF Vice President, said. Those include:

  • New materials for 3D printing;
  • Innovations in cyber security;
  • Sustainable composites;
  • Wireless charging for electric vehicles; and
  • Real-time medical diagnostics.

For many of us who have been involved with both UT and ORNL, it has been rewarding to see the emergence of a much stronger collaborative research relationship between the two institutions following the transition of the management contract for the lab to UT-Battelle, LLC in 2000.

This is probably best manifested in the Governor’s Chair Program and the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. The former helps attract top researchers to broaden and enhance the research partnership that exists between the state’s flagship university and the nation’s largest multi-program laboratory. In the case of the Bredesen Center, it helps attract some of the nation’s brightest doctoral students to the region with a subset of them, perhaps best represented by Tony Bova of Grow Bioplastics, starting technology-based companies in the region.

The entrepreneurial component of the Bredesen Center will be on display at Spark!

“Several of the PIs (principal investigators) have agreed to let the Bredesen Center students present their research work on June 21,” Rogers said.

Registration is now open for the event.

Who should attend?

“Anyone who is interested in these technologies,” Patterson says, citing investors, entrepreneurs and business executives.

“Technology at ORNL and UT is one of the region’s greatest differentiators,” Rogers says. “We want people to take advantage of these assets.”


Tom Ballard

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer,
Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.

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