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March 12, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Five finalists selected for 2023 Ballard Innovation Award

Five start-ups will pitch their companies for a chance at winning $50,000 in capital and in-kind services from PYA.

First there were 19, and then there were five.

Five finalists have been selected to compete in a pitch competition to win the 2023 “Ballard Innovation Award.”

An internal team of PYA judges took on the tough job of narrowing down all 19 applicants and named the following finalists, whose names you can click on to read previous coverage by

The annual award from PYA, established in 2021, allows emerging companies to compete for a $50,000 investment of capital and in-kind services to support their innovative ideas. In addition to the $50,000 package awarded to the winner, the first runner-up receives $10,000 in services, and the second runner-up receives $5,000 in services. The award is the largest combination of cash and in-kind services available to start-ups in Eastern Tennessee’s 33 counties.

For the first time this year, finalists will compete in a pitch competition on March 21 at 3 p.m. at the University of Tennessee Research Park at Cherokee Farm. A panel of five judges will determine the first, second, and third-place winners.

Past winners of the award include PrepWizard, a family-run company that uses technology to automate the food labeling process in commercial kitchens, and 490 BioTech, which develops bioluminescent technologies that enable new drugs to move more quickly through the pharmaceutical testing process.

The award is named in honor of PYA’s Chief Alliance Officer, Tom Ballard, who has spent decades creating relationships and supporting the East Tennessee region’s entrepreneurial community. He is also the editor of

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