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April 07, 2024 | Tom Ballard

UT’s Spark Innovation Center receives $150,000 award from DOE

Funding comes from the EPIC (Energy Program Innovation Cluster); will support a Spark Prototyping initiative to help start-up companies access prototyping resources and facilities.

The Spark Innovation Center at the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Park was awarded an EPIC (Energy Program Innovation Cluster) Round 3 Phase 1 award last week from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Technology Transitions, and the Center will be eligible to apply to Phase 2 of the program this summer.

The $150,000 prize will be used to support a Spark Prototyping initiative to help start-up companies access prototyping resources and facilities in partnership with the UT, Knoxville Tickle College of Engineering, the Center for Materials Processing in the Tickle College, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” program, and the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC).

“We’re honored to receive this support,” said Lilly Tench, Director of the Spark Innovation Center, “and are excited to work with our partners to help facilitate access to prototyping facilities, equipment, and student expertise to support the prototyping efforts of cleantech startups. This will be a valuable step in helping startups get their products to market faster.”

EPIC Round 3 is a competitive funding program aimed at supporting the nation’s most innovative incubators nurturing energy start-ups. With a focus on fostering creativity and impact, EPIC Round 3 awards cash prizes and a three-year cooperative agreement to regional incubator teams that develop robust programming, connections, and support for energy start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Bill Dunn, Associate Dean for Research Technology for the Tickle College, noted the collaboration on the Spark Scholars program underway with the college, Center for Materials Processing, and Spark Center that was spotlighted in Thursday’s edition of “The DOE EPIC prize enables us to build on this program that imbues students with entrepreneurial experience and provides needed talent to the start-ups,” he said.

The Spark Center is supported by the UT, DOE, ORNL, City of Knoxville, Appalachian Regional Commission, Launch Tennessee, Advanced Energy Business Council, and the Truist Foundation, and works in close partnership with the region’s Innov865 Alliance and the Heartland Climate Tech Partnership.

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