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May 08, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Brock pumped-up with LaunchTN progress, opportunities

(LaunchTN-teknoEDITOR’S NOTE: The author is a Board Member Emeritus of LaunchTN.)

Charlie Brock is even more pumped-up about LaunchTN and its progress than he was when he was elected the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer in January.

“There is incredible interest in entrepreneurship and how we can build a stronger entrepreneurial landscape in Tennessee,” he told us in a recent interview. Our conversation was focused on LaunchTN’s just released report, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Tennessee 2012.

Brock said that “2012 was a great year, a culmination of what has been put in place over the last few years.” He cited the commitments of Governor Bill Haslam and Commissioner Bill Hagerty, the state’s Jobs4TN program, the nine regional accelerators, the TNInvestco program, and an enhanced Board of Directors.

“We have people in place (on the board) who love the state and want to put their shoulder into helping us push forward,” he says, adding that LaunchTN provides a platform for collaboration across the state.

Brock described LaunchTN’s role as answering the question: “What’s the role that each entity can play and how can we facilitate more opportunities?”

He pointed to a number of accomplishments cited in the new report. They include $3 billion in federal research and development funding, the launch of more than 150 new high-potential start-ups, and the investment of more than $210 million in venture capital.

Governor Haslam and Commissioner Hagerty have consistently emphasized the importance of turning research dollar investments in the state into commercial successes. The report cites important progress on that front in 2012 – licenses and options up 12 percent, issued patents up 23 percent, and patent applications up 56 percent.

“The last year reflects priority within the research institutions . . . getting the right people in place,” Brock said in referring to the state’s research universities and institutions like Oak Ridge National Laboratory and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“The institutions have made a commitment,” he added.

One of the initiatives that Brock believes will pay dividends involves regional events that link entrepreneurs and investors. “We’re doing venture match programs,” he said in citing such an event held recently at Vanderbilt and attended by about 45 people, including inventors and investors.

“We had a number of investors saying wow,” Brock said. “We’re going to be doing the same thing across the state, starting with several in Knoxville.”

The 2012 report is available at (LaunchTN Innovation Report).

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