Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
January 22, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Three area companies among first recipients of DOE Voucher Program funding

Oak Ridge National Laboratory will also provide support for three non-area companies.

Three area companies, including two who have participated in the “Innovation Crossroads” program operated by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), are recipients of inaugural funding under the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Voucher Program.

Spark Innovation Center hosted the celebratory event on Monday afternoon at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing.  Dr. Vanessa Z. Chan, the DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) traveled to Knoxville to make the announcement. ORNL is also providing support to three other companies, meaning about five percent of the awards involve this region.

Funded by the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law” as part of the Technology Commercialization Fund, the Voucher Program involves OTT collaborating with the Offices of Clean Energy Demonstrations, Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM), and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) on the initiative. A total of 111 awards, amounting to almost $10 million, were made across five categories:

  • Voucher Opportunity 1: Pre-demonstration commercialization support;
  • Voucher Opportunity 2: Performance validation, modeling, and certification support;
  • Voucher Opportunity 3: Clean energy demonstration project siting/permitting support;
  • Voucher Opportunity 4: Commercialization support from EERE; and
  • Voucher Opportunity 5: Commercialization support from FECM.

Each of the recipients will receive vouchers worth up to $250,000. The three area companies that received funding are:

  • EKAMOR Resource Corporation of Cookeville that has developed a commercially viable process to produce an engineered alternative fuel, using municipal waste, that can be engineered to client specifications. It will work with CPFD Software under an Opportunity 2 award.
  • Electro-Active Technologies is a Knoxville start-up developing a modular system to convert food waste and renewable electricity into affordable, renewable hydrogen. The system can be deployed onsite or in a decentralized fashion as a local, urban solution. This will enable companies and communities to reinvest their waste for added value and improved sustainability. It will also work with CPFD Software under an Opportunity 2 award.
  • FC Renew LLC, another Knoxville-based start-up that is developing a novel low-cost process will restore the catalyst of a degraded hydrogen fuel cell, without the need to dismantle or replace the fuel cell itself. It has been awarded a voucher in the Opportunity 4 category and will work with Strategic Analysis Inc.

Chan told us after the event that DOE curated a number of third party organizations to provide assistance, and ORNL was one of them. In that regard, the lab will be providing Opportunity 2 services to Elyte Energy LLC, Dimensional Energy, and KVA Stainless / KVA Technologies.

Roundtable Discussion

(L to R) Piper, Warbis, Stuckey, and Caldwell.

After the announcement, Cortney Piper, Executive Director of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, moderated a roundtable discussion among Kelly Warbis, the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ekamor; Philip Stuckey, CEO of FC Renew; and Jennifer Caldwell, ORNL’s Director of Technology.

Both Warbis and Stuckey are recipients of the DOE vouchers, but they are at different stages in their research.

Warbis said that Ekamor’s technology readiness level is a nine, meaning he is ready to scale. He plans to use the money from the voucher to create a sustainability center and grow the technology in an applicable and adaptable way.

“It gives us strategic advances in the region, and we are very grateful for that,” Warbis said.

On the other hand, Stuckey is at a research and development phase with FC Renew. The voucher funding will go toward research in the market of metals, and developing viable, competitive solutions.

Caldwell spoke to the supportive ecosystem in Tennessee when it comes to start-up culture and the entrepreneurial/ research ecosystem. She said ORNL is also always eager to help in whatever capacity possible.

“Collaboration, like this, is how we can really take off as a region,” she said.

Don’t Miss Out on the Southeast’s Latest Entrepreneurial, Business, & Tech News!

Sign-up to get the Teknovation Newsletter in your inbox each morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

No, thanks!