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January 12, 2023 | Tom Ballard

UTC opens applications for researcher, grad student pitch event

Up to $35,000 in internal grants will be awarded at the second annual pitch competition on April 20.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) has announced details for its second annual “Fly for Researchers Pitch Competition” for faculty, staff, and graduate students from all colleges.

Organized by the UTC Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) in collaboration with the UTC Vice Chancellor for Research, UT System Vice President for Research, and UT System Administration, the event will again spotlight ideas that have the potential to be commercialized or licensed. Applicants must have a validated proof of concept, intend to pursue commercialization or licensing opportunities, and have submitted an invention disclosure in IDEA.

Up to $35,000 in internal grants will be awarded – $20,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place, and $5,000 for third place. Although direct compensation to the awardee is unallowable, winners will be able to use the funds for supplies, travel, student support, or other expenses that are reasonable and allowable under UT policy to accelerate the success of their ideas, innovations, and commercialization objectives.

Applications are now being accepted; deadline to apply is February 24, and more details about the specifics can be found here. UTC will also host a virtual information session from 12 noon to 1 p.m. January 18. Those eligible to apply can register at this link.

Applications will be reviewed and evaluated based on commercial applicability, the readiness of an idea or technology, and the information provided in the application. Finalists will be announced by March 20, and the “Fly for Researchers Pitch Competition” will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. April 20 at the CIE, MAPP Building, 410 East 8th Street. Those selected will give a five-minute presentation followed by up to eight minutes of Q & A.

“Building on the momentum from the first year reinforces the importance of research commercialization at UTC and provides alternate funding opportunities for faculty,” said Jennifer Skjellum, UTC’s Commercialization Counselor. “Providing the Chattanooga business community the opportunity to learn about innovative research and commercial activities at UTC is another important goal for ‘Fly for Researchers.’ Over 60 people attended last year’s public pitch event held at the CIE, and we expect even more this year.”

For more information, contact Skjellum at

Hamdy Ibrahim, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Ahmed Korra, a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, captured first place in the inaugural 2022 competition (see article here). Their pitch was titled “Dissolving and patient-specific fixation implants for broken bones.”

  • Second place and a $10,000 prize went to David Giles, Associate Professor of Biology, Geology, and Environmental Science, who presented “Resistance is futile: Developing a ‘Trojan Horse’ strategy for battling bacterial infections.”
  • Third place and $5,000 in prize money was awarded initially to Farah Kandah, Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, who was joined by Brennan Huber, a Ph.D. student in Computational Science, to pitch “A System and Method for Trust as a Service in Smart Cities and other Large-Scale IoT Deployments.” After Kandah left for a position at Auburn University, the award went to Erkan Kaplanoglu, Associate Professor of Engineering Management and Technology for a project titled “Developing Active and Passive Force Controlled Wearable Device for Upper Extremity Essential Tremor.”

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