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August 07, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Two area start-up accelerators announce collaboration

The seven start-ups in the newest cohort of "Innovation Crossroads" will participate in the second edition of the "Spark Cleantech Accelerator."

Entrepreneurs in two of the three start-up accelerators in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region will be attending classes together this fall under a new collaborative effort.

In an announcement made on August 7, administrators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) said that Fellows in Cohort 7 of its “Innovation Crossroads” (IC) will complete the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator,” a 12-week program offered by the Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park.

Both programs recently announced their newest cohorts. The seventh group of Crossroads Fellows includes three Knoxville start-ups (see article here), while the second cohort of Spark includes two Knoxville companies among its six participants (see article here).

“By combining the resources of Innovation Crossroads and Spark, we are building a stronger program for entrepreneurs,” said Dan Miller, IC Program Lead. “Entrepreneurial ecosystems depend on relationships between early-stage companies. This new collaboration – a first between our two programs – is an intentional effort to grow Knoxville’s entrepreneurial community.”

The IC program supports start-up founders focused on clean energy and advanced manufacturing technologies through a fellowship that includes a personal living stipend, health insurance and travel allowance, cooperative research and development funding to collaborate with technical experts at ORNL, and comprehensive mentoring to build a sustainable business model.

One of four programs that comprise the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program, IC is funded by DOE’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office, Building Technologies Office, Office of Science, Office of Electricity, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” is an early-stage business accelerator that offers a comprehensive set of services to support promising cleantech companies including training, mentoring, and opportunities to make connections with representatives from regional government agencies and industry.

“The partners in our local entrepreneurial ecosystem already work really well together,” said Lilly Tench, Spark Director. “Pooling our combined expertise to expand what we can offer new startups will further strengthen our region to the benefit of our communities.”

The “Spark Cleantech Accelerator” is a program of the UT Research Park’s Spark Innovation Center, and is supported with funding from DOE; UT, Knoxville; City of Knoxville; Truist Foundation; Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council; and Launch Tennessee.

The 12-week accelerator begins on August 21.

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