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August 31, 2021 | Tom Ballard

John Derrick starts today as EIR at the Spark Innovation Center

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

John Derrick, a recent addition to the Knoxville region’s ecosystem, starts work today as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) at the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee Research Park.

The fairly new resident of Blount County brings great experience from two of the nation’s best known entrepreneurial ecosystems – Austin, TX and the Bay Area of California. He’s led three company exits as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in addition to multiple additional exits as an Advisor or Interim CEO. Those exits where he was CEO include Chicory Systems Inc. that was acquired by Parthus Technologies PLC, Conformative Systems Inc. that was acquired by Intel Corporation, and Qubell that was acquired by Grid Dynamics.

John Derrick

Today, Derrick continues to be engaged with start-ups elsewhere as an advisor and investor to several and also as an EIR with the Yale Entrepreneurial Society and CEO of SkyWriter Systems Inc.

“He will be responsible for several things,” said John Bruck, the recently named Director of the Spark Innovation Center. “One will be to support our existing companies including two new ones that have been added as virtual participants.”

Active Energy Systems (AES), a member of the inaugural cohort of the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and CQInsights Inc., the start-up focused on improving patient care through the utilization of data, are the two new virtual members. AES recently secured a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Science Foundation (see June 13 article here) for further development of its ice thermal energy storage system.

They join the original six Spark participants – American Nanotechnologies Inc.; Chem Chip, part of the Reactwell, LLC family; EonixNeptune Fluid Flow SystemsSkyNano LLC; and Qubit Engineering LLC.

Derrick’s other focus will be on the new “Cleantech Accelerator” that the Spark Innovation Center will launch next June. As noted in this recent article, the Center is a member of the “Midwest Regional Innovation Partnership” (MRIP) that secured a $900,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The local activities will include launching the accelerator that will attract six start-ups each year to the region for three years.

“John will be focused on assembling content for the accelerator, sourcing companies, and raising additional funding,” Bruck said.

MRIP is comprised of the Clean Energy TrustCentrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University, and mHUB.

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