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January 24, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Apply now for the Spark Cleantech Accelerator

Applications are now open for cleantech companies to join the next cohort of the Spark Cleantech Accelerator, part of the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm.

Applications are now being accepted for the second cohort of the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator.”

The deadline to apply for the 12-week program, housed at the University of Tennessee Research Park (UTRP) at Cherokee Farm and operated by the Spark Innovation Center, is midnight May 12. The accelerator officially kicks off on August 14 and is designed to assist early-stage cleantech innovators with commercializing their innovations and advancing technologies that will benefit the environment and provide economic value to East Tennessee, the Midwest, and the cleantech industry.

“The Spark Innovation Center programs have had tremendous results so far,” said Lilly Tench, the newly named Director of the Spark Cleantech Accelerator (see article here). “In the first two years of operation, companies participating in the Spark Incubator or Accelerator have raised a total of $34 million through grants, equity investment, and recurring revenue, hired 26 full-time employees, 10 contract employees, and supported 10 internships. We are excited to build upon this success to support the next cohort of cleantech companies that will build a cleaner future and a more robust economy here in East Tennessee.”

The program is free to cleantech entrepreneurs, with no monetary or equity exchange required to participate. Participants in the 12-week accelerator will receive:

  • $15,000 stipends to help defray travel/living costs and to support business and technical milestones;
  • Access to prototyping services through the UT, Knoxville’s Center for Materials Processing;
  • Mentoring and one-on-one support from experts in business, market analysis and positioning, intellectual property/patent strategy, product design, engineering, prototyping, testing, material selection, tooling design, and manufacturing;
  • Connections with customers, investors, strategic partners, suppliers, universities, and national laboratories;
  • Training workshops and one-on-one support, including individual meetings with U. S. Department of Energy staff in its Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs; and
  • Partnerships with organizations such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, UT, the City of Knoxville, and members of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council.

Tench says that the program welcomes applications from entrepreneurs developing technologies that demonstrate a positive impact on energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture, improved wastewater treatment, generation of renewable energy, reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and increased recycling/upcycling and the circular economy. Early-stage cleantech entrepreneurs from anywhere in the U.S. are encouraged to apply.

Successful applicants must be willing to relocate to Knoxville for the duration of the 12-week program.  Companies that demonstrate their technology can support the challenges and needs of Spark partners, such as utilities, local governments, universities, manufacturing companies, and commercial building operators, are of particular interest.

Interested companies can apply and find more information at this link, view a video at this link,  and reach out to with questions.