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August 21, 2019 | Tom Ballard

LST and its Knoxville Academic Alliance launching “Scipreneur Challenge” on September 5

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Life Science Tennessee’s (LST) “Scipreneur Challenge” is coming to East Tennessee this fall.

Based on the TechVenture Challenge that was launched several years ago by Vanderbilt University’s Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization with support from LST, the program was expanded to Memphis with a new name and now has been embraced by the Knoxville Chapter of LST’s Academic Alliance.

It’s all about helping accelerate the commercialization of technologies from research institutions while simultaneously providing individuals interested in technology-based entrepreneurship, particularly in the life sciences, the opportunity to improve their understanding of the proverbial “bench to the market” process.

“There have been companies that have come out of this process,” said Abby Trotter, LST Executive Director of LST, a statewide, non-profit, member organization focused on advancing the industry in the state.

For the local organizers, it was an opportunity to go beyond the “Beer & Biotech” meet-ups that the Academic Alliance has been hosting monthly to focus on accelerating life science start-ups in East Tennessee.

“They (Memphis and Nashville) have had good success with the program,” Justin Westerfield, one of the leaders of the Knoxville chapter, told us. He hopes this fall’s “Knoxville Scipreneur Challenge” will be another way to encourage the creation of more life science companies in this region.

“We want to have about 20 participants,” Westerfield says of the program that kicks-off September 5 and wraps-up November 7. He expects that most of the registrants will be graduate students, but anyone can participate. Here’s a flyer on the program (KSC-event_flyer-v1.0).

“We’re looking for people who are interested in advancing the technologies that will be provided,” Westerfield explained. Those technologies come from a region’s intellectual property (IP) generators. In the case of Knoxville and Oak Ridge, they are the University of Tennessee (UT) through its Research Foundation and Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its Technology Transfer organization.

The program launches with an “IP Parade and Team Matching” session to be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. September 5 at the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy on the UT Knoxville campus (click here to register). At that time, Westerfield says the available technologies will be previewed, and the registrants will have the opportunity to rank order the ones on which they would like to work. Then, the participants will be assigned to four or five teams to begin their “Scipreneur Challenge” activities.

Over the next two months, the teams will attend weekly seminars, receive mentoring and conduct extensive market research to develop mock business plans for the IP. In the case of the inaugural “Knoxville Scipreneur Challenge,” there’s a distinct advantage from another program also underway at the same time.

As noted in yesterday’s feature article in, the UT Research Foundation and UT, Knoxville’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation are hosting the fall edition of the I-Corps South (I-CS) program that is focused on the all-important customer discovery process, and all of the participants in the “Scipreneur Challenge” (SC) will be automatically registered for those activities.

So, here’s how the schedule shapes-up between now and early November:

  • September 5 – SC IP Parade and Team Matching.
  • September 12 – SC Seminar #1 on “The Business Model.
  • September 19 – SC Seminar #2 on “Finance.”
  • September 26 – SC Seminar #3 on “Regulatory Affairs.”
  • October 3 – I-CS kick-off and Workshop #1 on “Customer Discovery, Business Thesis, and Interview Techniques.”
  • October 4 through 9 – I-CS interviews with prospective customer.
  • October 10 – I-CS Workshop #2 on “Business Models.”
  • October 11 through 16 – More customer interviews., 30 min office hour call
  • October 17 – I-CS Workshop #3 on “Lessons Learned, What’s Next?”
  • October 24 – SC Seminar #4 on “How to Pitch.”
  • October 31 – No meeting; Halloween.
  • November 4 – SC pitch practice.
  • November 7 – Final pitch event.

Westerfield says the Academic Alliance is seeking sponsors (Sponsor Prospectus 2019).

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