(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following news release was issued by Tech 2020 of which the Editor of teknovation.biz is a Past Chair and current member of both the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee.)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – January 26, 2016:
The Board of Directors of Tech 2020 voted today to begin an orderly process to wind down operations after more than two decades focused on technology-based economic development activities in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region.
“Tech 2020 has truly been an innovator, not only in this region but also across the nation for more than 20 years,” said Teri Brahams, Tech 2020 Chair. “The Board believes this strong advocacy role for entrepreneurship has made a lasting impact on our community and helped spawn a much more robust ecosystem than the one that existed in 1994. We want to see how that legacy of service can be continued through other organizations.”
In approving the unanimous recommendation from Tech 2020’s Executive Committee, the Board asked that the wind down process include an exploration of options to transition programs and staff to other organizations.
“The decision was not an easy one, but it was made by the Board after careful evaluation of options for the organization,” said Teri Brahams, Tech 2020 Chair. “We were the only organization focused on entrepreneurial support when we were established, but the landscape has changed dramatically since then. We believe the region can best be served with fewer entities competing for limited financial resources.”
The Executive Committee was charged with overseeing the wind down, engaging temporary resources as needed to help with the process. The Executive Committee is also tasked with bringing a plan back to the board for final approval. The process is expected to take at least 60 to 90 days.
Tech 2020 was established in 1994 in Oak Ridge with significant grants from BellSouth, now part of the AT&T enterprise, and others. The organization’s initial focus areas were telecommunications and entrepreneurship, and one of its early creations was Digital Crossing Networks, LLC, located in Downtown Knoxville.
When the University of Tennessee (UT) and Battelle Memorial Institute partnered to bid on the management contract for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tech 2020 conceived a new subsidiary called the Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG). The latter’s mission was clearly focused on helping ORNL and UT commercialize more of their inventions by helping local entrepreneurs.
Later, when then Governor Don Sundquist established the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, Tech 2020 served for several years as the administrative arm of the organization that does business today as Launch Tennessee.
The CEG program was also expanded through contracts in Chattanooga, Western North Carolina, and Southeastern Kentucky.
Over the past few years, Tech 2020 has faced increasing financial pressures. Part of the reason can clearly be attributed to the economic times. Another factor has been the emergence of a more robust local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“All of these developments have been good for the region, but they have impacted the roles that Tech 2020 has historically played,” Brahams said. “We are confident that important aspects of these roles will continue in a positive way as the ecosystem adjusts to this change.”