Access to capital is an important priority for Oak Ridge-based Tech 2020, and a team led by the non-profit venture development organization has won a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help address the deficiency.
The award, made under EDA’s “Regional Innovation Strategies” (RIS) program, will help fund a local seed capital effort named the “TenneSeed Fund” that could grow to as much as $3 to $5 million or maybe more. It was announced earlier this week by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
“We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to support the creation of a critical pool of investment capital in this region,” said Teri Brahams, Chair of the Tech 2020 Board of Directors.
The Tech 2020-led team combined the entrepreneurial and commercialization experience of Tech 2020 and Memphis Bioworks Foundation with the investment acumen and fund management experience of Grady Vanderhoofven at Meritus and Ken Woody at Innova. EDA grants almost always require matches, and both Meritus and Innova have committed $120,000 each to the endeavor.
“Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Foundation, both in Knoxville and at the Health Science Center in Memphis, were instrumental in catalyzing this endeavor,” Brahams said.. “Launch TN and many members of the regional investment and entrepreneurial community encouraged and supported this effort.”
Brahams said the initial investments will be focused on intelligent and sustainable transportation and logistics, an industry cluster where Tennessee has a competitive advantage bolstered by strong research, development, and commercial activity.
Tech 2020 just recently assumed responsibility for managing the three-year old autoXLR8R initiative which is focused on growing automotive-related start-ups. ORNL has a number of research programs impacting transportation, and UT is home to a nationally-recognized logistics program.
RIS is a new initiative designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country through three different types of awards – i6 Challenge grants, Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds, and Science and Research Park Development Grants.
The Tech 2020 team was one of nine recipients across the country awarded in the seed capital category. It tied with the Clean Energy Trust of Chicago, Quatere of Salt Lake City, and the University of North Dakota in receiving the maximum amount of funds.
For a listing of all the awards that EDA announced this week, click here. You can also read the full Tech 2020 release here (Tech 2020-EDA Grant). Finally, Milt Capps has an extensive overview at his Venture Tennessee Connections site.