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Teknovation News and Notes
August 20, 2023 | Tom Ballard

News & Notes | DOE casts the spotlight on the Spark Innovation Center

In Oak Ridge, one longtime organization is preparing to close its doors while another is opening an office.

From Washington, DC but about Knoxville:

The Office of Technology Transitions at the U.S. Department of Energy has cast the spotlight on the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park.

The center, which is part of the Heartland Climate Tech Partnership, was first awarded a $50,000 award from the Office of Technology Transitions’ Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) program in 2020 to launch operations and received an additional $300,000 EPIC award in 2021 as part of the Heartland Climate Tech Partnership, which allowed Spark to launch the new cleantech accelerator for the region. The second cohort of the accelerator kicks off later today.

In the first two years of operation, Spark start-ups raised more than $34 million in follow-on funding and created over 46 jobs across two incubator cohorts and the inaugural accelerator cohort. The spotlight article notes that the “Spark team saw an opportunity to take advantage of the existing resources in the region, citing Oak Ridge National Lab, UT’s research ecosystem, and electric utility Tennessee Valley Authority. According to a 2021 whitepaper by cleantech venture capital firm, Saoradh Enterprise Partners LLC, Knoxville is rated in the top 20 cleantech hubs in the country.”

The full article can be found here.

From Oak Ridge:

  • The Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET) has announced that it is starting the “orderly, planned closing of the CROET Corporation and its affiliate organization, Heritage Center LLC.” According to a news release, the organization focused on reindustrialization around the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Site will close up shop within two years. CROET was formed in 1995 to lure DOE grant money to East Tennessee as the federal agency cut back on its Cold War-related defense work at Oak Ridge. CROET landed $60 million in DOE grant funds over the years and also became the hub of brownfield reindustrialization efforts around the site, according to the release. Remaining work includes transforming the former K-25 uranium enrichment property into a fully-functioning industrial park and projects to support the planned Oak Ridge general aviation airport that could open in 2025.
  • Type One Energy Group, a leading stellarator fusion energy company, has announced the opening of new offices in Oak Ridge. The company’s newest location reflects Type One Energy’s corporate strategy to organize around fusion talent centers. The Oak Ridge office places a team at the heart of a talent-rich fusion hub near the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, home to a robust Fusion Energy Division and the U.S. ITER program. Distributed business functions and locations enhance Type One Energy’s partner-rich and capital-efficient FusionDirect program. The expansion follows the company’s recent funding of an over-subscribed seed round of $29 million and inclusion in the U.S. Department of Energy’s $46 million “Milestone-Based Fusion Development” program.

From Nashville:

Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN) has rolled out a freshly branded website, and along with it a new, free online hub that aggregates organizations and resources for start-up founders in all the state’s 95 counties. The platform, called Startup Tennessee, provides information about organizations, resources, programs, and events from entrepreneurial support organizations and companies.

“We saw the need for a platform that could act as a one-stop shop for people who want to engage with Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Chief Executive Officer Lindsey Cox said. “One of LaunchTN’s focus areas is fostering connectivity among entrepreneurs and resource providers, so Startup Tennessee is an exciting way for us to provide a robust, reliable snapshot of those resources in Tennessee.”

Aggregating resources for founders in all of the state’s 95 counties, Startup Tennessee was created in collaboration with tech company EcoMap, using artificial intelligence to keep the platform up-to-date. It is designed for current, future, and aspiring members of the Tennessee entrepreneurial ecosystem with an intentional focus on businesses in the early stages, so most resources listed (excluding investment capital) are free or low-cost.

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