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March 05, 2019 | Tom Ballard


(EDITOR’S NOTE: As Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) finalizes selections for the third cohort in its “Innovation Crossroads” program that accelerates new energy start-ups, we wanted to provide an update on the three members of the inaugural cohort. They arrived here in May 2017 and will complete their two-year Fellowships soon. Today, we spotlight Matt Ellis and Sam Shaner of Yellowstone Energy.)

  • When you were selected for the inaugural cohort of ORNL’s “Innovation Crossroads” program, how would you describe the state of your technology and where you were in standing-up a start-up? We were early in the pre-conceptual design phase and had filed for two provisional patent applications on our core, enabling technology.
  • Now, more than three-fourths of the way through the two-year experience, how would you answer the question? We have completed significant portions of the pre-conceptual design and are beginning experimental work on the key enabling technology at ORNL. The relationships we have formed and progress we have made were greatly accelerated by our participation in “Innovation Crossroads.”
  • What have been the biggest changes and how has the “Innovation Crossroads” program helped with the progress that you’ve made? The biggest change is receiving additional funding through an ARPA-E grant for detailed modeling and experimentation on enabling technology. “Innovation Crossroads” helped us with this through collaboration with ORNL before and during the application process. It also worth noting that the LaunchTN “SBIR/STTR Microgrant Program” was instrumental in the ARPA-E grant process by providing funding to contract an experience grant writer to review our application.
  • What more do you expect/hope to accomplish before your commitment ends in May? We will finish experimental work needed to demonstrate feasibility of our enabling technology.
  • What comes after the “Innovation Crossroads” ends for you? Will you remain here or go elsewhere? We plan to stay in the Knoxville area and continue making progress on maturing our core technology and building our collaborations with key partners.
  • Knowing now what you did not necessarily know at the time, what advice would you offer to the third cohort of “Innovation Crossroads” teams in terms of maximizing the opportunity? Building relationships is just as important as technical development – get out and talk to the scientists at ORNL!

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