Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
April 11, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Grant a champion of connecting the Valley’s assets

Kannan Grant is not from the region, but he’s become passionate about his employer – the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH) – and its role in the larger Tennessee Valley Corridor during the five years he has headed the Office of Technology Commercialization at UAH.

“I didn’t know anything about Huntsville,” Grant said about his initial meeting with Tom Koshut, UAH’s Associate Vice President for Research. At the time, he was Chief Executive Officer of FuturaGene, Inc., a plant genetic start-up.

“I found a lot of technology and a lot of federal dollars going through Huntsville,” he said, citing not only UAH but also Redstone Arsenal, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Alabama A & M University, and Oakwood University.

“I also learned we are part of the bigger Tennessee Valley Corridor” that includes Oak Ridge National Laboratory, several University of Tennessee campuses, and Arnold Engineering Development Center.

We caught-up with Grant in December when he was a judge for the Enterprise Center’s (EC) “Y-12/Inventors Business Plan Competition” and talked more extensively in early 2013.

“My passion is finding ways we can work together to make the Tennessee Valley Corridor more economically successful,” Grant said as he emphasized the importance of collaboration among technology generators like UAH.

It was that goal that caused him to reach out to Chris Daly, EC’s Director of Technology Development and Transfer. For EC, it was a natural link, since Daly and Wayne Cropp, EC’s Chief Executive Officer, have developed a business strategy that involves connecting Chattanooga entrepreneurs to technology centers in Huntsville Knoxville/Oak Ridge, and Nashville.

And, for the Tennessee Valley Corridor, Grant’s passion supports the vision for the 17-year old entity with a mission of “Putting science and technology to work” through regional cooperation.

Grant noted that UAH is also working with companies in Southern Middle Tennessee.

In addition to building alliances across the region, Grant is clearly focused on commercializing UAH technologies.

“We just started an Innovation Fund that will allow us to invest dollars in faculty ideas,” he said, adding that “we’ve just started putting together an advisory board for the fund.” Grant is also passionate about establishing a proof of concept center, and he values the role that alliances with industry have in “introducing problems and issues faced by industries to our faculty, staff, and students.”

Grant is not new to technology commercialization, having started in the field as a Technology Commercialization Specialist with Iowa State University which houses Ames Lab. He later served as Associate Director at the University of Georgia’s Research Foundation, Director for Engineering and Physical Sciences at the Purdue Research Foundation, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Technology Development at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

“It’s a day and night job,” Grants says of his role, “but that’s what makes it exciting.”