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June 06, 2021 | Tom Ballard

Cohort 3 of “Innovation Crossroads” program graduates during virtual event

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

Another cohort is wrapping up its fellowship with “Innovation Crossroads.” The program, run through Oak Ridge National Laboratory, hosted a graduation event last week, where all seven members of Cohort 3 pitched their companies. “Innovation Crossroads” partnered with FedTech, a venture builder and accelerator based in Washington, DC for the virtual event.

Dan Miller, Director of “Innovation Crossroads,” started the celebration by giving a brief overview of the program, adding that Cohort 5 of the program will start in a few weeks.

“This is an exciting time of year as we transition and really celebrate the cohort that has completed its two-year fellowship and is transitioning to outside the laboratory,” Miller said of Cohort 3. “Even after they graduate, we always consider them a part of the ‘Innovation Crossroads’ program, and they always have our support.”


Miller then moderated a panel including Cohort 2 alums Megan O’Connor and Matthew Smith. O’Connor is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Co-Founder of Nth Cycle, which recycles metals from batteries. Read more about her in this article. Smith is the CEO and Co-Founder of TCPoly, which manufactures advanced polymers for use in 3D printing. Read more about him in this article.

Miller’s questions highlighted the “Innovation Crossroads” program and its resources. O’Connor said the access to free or low-cost lab space, as well as the amount of expensive equipment that the Founders have access to, could not be downplayed.


He also asked the two alums what they would do differently if they were starting “Innovation Crossroads” again. Both O’Connor and Smith agreed they would take advantage of the program’s partnership with ORNL when applying for grants. This can help give a leg up against competitors for grants, particularly Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer grants. Smith said that all the resources at the lab make it feel as though “your team has been extended.”

Both alums also encouraged any prospective applicants for Cohort 6 (opening this fall) to reach out to “Innovation Crossroads” or teams at the lab directly.

Founders from Cohort 3 pitched to a panel of three judges: Jonathan Shamay Draluck, Chief Legal Officer for The Tomorrow Companies Inc.; Rolando Rodriguez, Director of DNA Digest; and James Pitcher, Contracting Officer with the U.S. Air Force and former AFVentures Fellow. Each Founder had a brief video pitch, followed by a question-and-answer session with the judges.

The first four founders pitched before a short break and fireside chat moderated by FedTech Director Will Dickson. The panel included Gary Brinkworth, Director of Enterprise Research & Technology Innovation at the Tennessee Valley Authority; Coleman Adams, Partner at Clean Energy Venture Group (CEV); and Mike Paulus, Director of Technology Transfer at ORNL. The group discussed the changing definition of clean energy. Coleman said that energy was just the “tip of the spear.” Many groups like CEV are now looking at supply chains and materials involved in the production of clean energy.

The Founders of Cohort 3 pitched in the following order

Look for our article spotlighting the Founders participating in Cohort 5 of “Innovation Crossroads” as soon as they are announced. We will also publish a series of articles on the individual companies and more about their focus in the coming weeks.

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