CO.LAB has big plans for 2014 “GIGTANK”

GigTank-teknoBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“As soon as you button-up one, you start on the next,” Mike Bradshaw told us recently in reference to the “GIGTANK.”

The former corporate executive, who has called Chattanooga home for a decade, begins his third year of association with the “GIGTANK” with big plans for 2014. Those aspirations coincide with some changes at the CO.LAB, home for the accelerator focused on taking advantage of the city’s gigabit network.

“The things we do are growing,” Bradshaw, CO.LAB Executive Director Entrepreneur-in-Residence, told teknovation.biz. “The start-up community is sprouting new shoots. New partnerships are evolving, and we have to organize to handle the opportunities.”

Several of the changes have previously been reported. They include the addition of Tia Capps as Communications Director and the expansion of “CO.STARTERS,” the new name for “Springboard,” to communities across the country. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Tomorrow’s feature story on teknovation.biz will be an interview with CO.STARTERS guru Enoch Elwell).

CO.LAB has also promoted Allison Reedy to Events Director.

Bradshaw says that the “services are set” to enable CO.LAB to effectively address an aggressive agenda in 2014. A key component is the internationally recognized “GIGTANK.”

As the team began to look at this year’s plans, Bradshaw said they asked the question: “What do we do now” with Chattanooga’s reputation for its gigabit network?

The answer is a three-track program where each of the focus areas is connected in some way to the others.

One track is additive manufacturing, a rapidly emerging concept billed by some as the second industrial revolution. In a 2012 article in The New York Times, noted author Thomas Friedman wrote: “Big bandwidth, combined with 3-D printers, would also allow for the rapid prototyping of all kinds of manufactured products that can then be made anywhere.”

Bradshaw says the CO.LAB has not only embraced Friedman’s view, but demonstrated it conceptually during 2013. In the nextGIGTANKcohort, entrepreneurs will build companies in the space.

Doug Speight, a former Commercialization Manager at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) who is now on entrepreneurial leave, will serve as the “GIGTANK Entrepreneur-in-Residence” for this track.

Bradshaw says the “GIGTANK” plans to work with ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility that showcases the latest in additive manufacturing technology.

A second track, again taking advantage of the gigabit network, is the smart grid. As one might expect, Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board (EPB), which deployed the network, will champion this track.

Bradshaw explained that EPB has billions of data points on electrical usage compiled through the network, and the “GIGTANK” is seeking entrepreneurs who want to build applications based on this data.

To illustrate the inter-relationship of the first two tracks, Bradshaw talked about the impact of a large scale distributed additive manufacturing network on the electric grid.

“Imagine a future that might not be five years away where you have a thousand of these big, 3D printers in a metro area hitting the power system at one time,” he said. “This introduces a new set of peak demand issues. What does the nerve center look like?”

That’s the sort of challenge and opportunity that the “GIGTANK” offers entrepreneurs.

The final track is telemedicine and data analytics. Dave McDonald, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of ProjectLift, will be the champion for this track. His company serves hospitals, health systems, universities, and healthcare districts as they develop strategies to innovate and grow.

With the increased emphasis in the healthcare sector on reducing costs and increasing outcomes, a gigabit network offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop a variety of applications that capitalize on the enhanced bandwidth.

Bradshaw is working with the new leadership at the University of Tennessee’s Chattanooga campus to involve more faculty and students in this year’s “GIGTANK.”

The CO.LAB will begin accepting applications for this year’s “GIGTANK” on January 15.

Visit http://www.thegigcity.com/gigtank/ to learn more.

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