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Teknovation News and Notes
December 04, 2022 | Tom Ballard

A WSJ spotlight on retiring ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia tops this week’s “News & Notes”

Here's a statewide innovation news roundup to start your week.

A somewhat rare article about the region in The Wall Street Journal tops this week’s “News & Notes” feature. Other items include a spotlight on the work of a faculty member at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the opening of applications for the next two 100Knoxville cohorts, and the death of a car and carbon fiber enthusiast.

From Oak Ridge:

  • Thomas Zacharia, who retires at the end of this month as Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) after spending 35 years at the Department of Energy (DOE) facility, was spotlighted on Saturday in a lengthy article (subscription required) in The Wall Street Journal. Under the headline of “Thomas Zacharia Knows the Power of Innovation,” the article describes how his father allowed him to come from his native India to the U.S. but only if he attended the University of Mississippi. Much of the focus is on his leadership in high-performance computing, and it closes with this quote: “It’s better to retire at the top than when people ask you to leave.”
  • Two ORNL teams recently participated in the DOE “Energy I-Corps” program in Washington, D.C. A key initiative of DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions, “Energy I-Corps” works to ensure that the nation’s investment in its national labs maintains and strengthens long-term U.S. competitiveness. Through the program, teams of researchers and industry mentors participate in an intensive two-month training where the researchers define technology value propositions, conduct stakeholder discovery interviews, and develop viable market pathways for their technologies. Jackie Zheng and Sylas Rehbein, both students in the Bredesen Center of the University of Tennessee (UT)-Oak Ridge Innovation Initiative, led the entrepreneur part of the teams’ presentations. Researchers return to the lab with a framework for industry engagement to guide future research and inform a culture of market awareness within the lab.

From Knoxville:

  • The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center is accepting applications for the next two cohorts of its 100Knoxville program. The Winter Cohort begins January 25 and ends March 10, while the Spring Cohort begins April 12 and ends May 19. Regardless of which of the two programs individuals want to join, the application deadline in December 19. To apply, click here.
  • The Knoxville Area Association of REALTORS® (KAAR) will unveil its “2023 Housing Market Forecast” at an event December 16 at the KAAR offices, 609 Weisgarber Road. The 90-minute session begins at 8:30 a.m. Admission is free to KAAR members and $10 for others plus a processing fee. Space is limited. To register, click here.
  • Word came on Sunday via a social media post that Gary Lownsdale had died that morning due to complications of legionella pneumonia. As we described in a series (Part 1 and Part 2) in 2013, he had then spent the better part of five decades focused on two passions – “C and CF.” The “C” stands for cars and the “CF” is carbon fiber. Rest in peace, Gary.

From Boston but with Knoxville-Oak Ridge Ties:

When William, Prince of Wales, and Catherine, Princess of Wales, visited Boston last week, one of their stops was at Greentown Labs, which is North America’s largest climate start-up incubator. One of the individuals with whom they spoke was Megan O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer of Nth Cycle, a start-up that was a participant in Cohort 2 of the “Innovation Crossroads” program at ORNL.

From Chattanooga:

  • The Chattanoogan reports that Hamilton County government is searching for a Director of its Economic and Community Development Department as County Mayor Weston Wamp sets into motion his agenda to recruit the jobs of the future and strengthen the area’s workforce. The deadline to apply (link hereis this Friday.
  • In the latest issue of its newsletter, the UT Research Foundation spotlights the work of Mina Sartipi, the founding Director of the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) at UT at Chattanooga (UTC). She also serves as a Guerry Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department and recently received a joint appointment at ORNL. In 2019, CUIP launched its 1.2-mile MLK Smart Corridor testbed to accelerate smart city and connected and autonomous vehicle research.
  • Mark Christopherson has joined Solas BioVentures as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence. With extensive executive experience in the medical device field and venture-funded MedTech start-up space, he will help Solas further support its portfolio companies; serve as the company’s ambassador to Minnesota’s Medical Alley, and help the firm expand its growth strategy. “We’re excited Mark is aboard! His decades of experience will be invaluable as we expand our strategy for vetting and funding startups with the greatest potential to improve patient outcomes,” said David Adair, Solas BioVentures Co-Founder and Managing General Partner. The news release can be found here.

From Johnson City:

The Johnson City Press reports that the Young Professionals of Johnson City, a program of the Johnson City Chamber that works to attract and retain individuals between the ages of 21-40 to the community, will host the first-ever TEDxJohnsonCity on the evening of June 6. The focus will be on what makes Appalachia great. The point of contact is McKenzie Templeton (

From Springfield:

Stony Creek Colors, a manufacturer of natural indigo dye, raised $4.8 million in Series B2 funding that was led by Lewis & Clark AgriFood and Levi Strauss & Co. The company, Founded by Sarah Bellos in 2012,  intends to use the funds to further refine its proprietary system for plant-derived indigo and scale-up production. Stony Creek Colors has developed proprietary seed genetics and extraction processes as well as strategic farm partnerships to provide brand customers with a fully transparent supply chain for high-performing plant-derived dyes, from seed, to farms, to factory.

From Memphis:

AgLaunch Initiative, a nonprofit ag innovation organization based in Memphis, has announced the addition of Marcus Coleman and Arielle Moinester to its Board of Directors. Coleman is a Professor of Practice in the School of Liberal Arts at Tulane University, while Moinester is the Senior Program Director for Women’s Earth Alliance. They join other longtime board members Corinne Gould, Assistant Commissioner for Public Affairs for the Tennessee Department of Agriculture; Fayre Crossley, Chief Grants and Compliance Officer at Epicenter Memphis; Karen LeVert, Chief Executive Officer of Ag TechInventures; Andrew R. McCarroll, General Counsel for Southeastern Asset Management, Inc.;
and Rhedona Rose, Executive Vice President of the Tennessee Farm Bureau.

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