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June 26, 2013 | Tom Ballard

“Venture Match” four-part series launched in Oak Ridge

About three dozen people attended the first of four “Venture Match” discussions held Wednesday morning at Tech 20/20.

Even by Oak Ridge standards, it was a diverse mix of individuals that included college students, retired scientists, business executives, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, licensing executives, a couple who came from Chattanooga, and at least one elected official.

And, the attendees heard a diverse mix of presentations – from students looking a business opportunities for new technologies to an executive of the internationally-recognized Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) that has a major presence in Oak Ridge.

The monthly series is being organized by LaunchTN, with support from Tech 20/20, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). It is sponsored by Bass Berry & Sims.

“We are bringing together people in a vertical cluster, in this case energy, to talk about what they are doing,” said John Morris, Tech 20/20 Chief Executive Officer (CEO), as he welcomed the group. The goal is to further stimulate new technology company starts.

Jill Van Beke, LaunchTN’s East Tennessee Director, told us when she announced the series she wanted “entrepreneurs looking for a new technology to have a chance to hear from scientists who have commercially viable ideas.”

During the 90-minute program, attendees heard from seven individuals who are involved in the energy space locally. The first speaker was Tom Reddoch of EPRI who described the 800-employee research organization, its focus areas, and challenges.

Reddoch noted that “dramatic changes” will occur in the energy industry over the next 20 years and said emerging flexible systems will be “looking for loads of innovation.” These needs will provide significant opportunities for start-up companies, he added.

Patrick Hunt, CEO of the newly named Fiveworx start-up, gave the group an overview of the company’s initial product – “Do 5 Things.” The technology was profiled earlier this month on teknovation.biz (https://www.teknovation.biz/2013/06/05/5-spotlight-week-southland-conference/).

Al Akerman described two products that Emerging Measurements Company (EMCO) is developing. The firm was founded by a group of ORNL retirees who collectively have more than 100 years of lab service. The two products are a thermographic phosphor lab kit to be used in physics labs and a device to serve the jet aircraft and power production sectors.

Other presenters included:

  • Two UT graduate students from the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Education who described technologies they had researched as part of their academic work. Beth Papanek described a biofuels application called sonoporation for gram positive bacteria. Travis Lang presented an ORNL-patented “waste heat to energy” technology.
  • Brad Trento of UT, Knoxville presented an overview of the CURRENT program that is focused on the transmission grid as well as the education of next generation workers in the utility industry.
  • Ming Qi, another UT graduate student, described his invention of a catalyst and next generation high-energy density air battery.

The next “Venture Match” will focus on materials science. It is set for 7:30 a.m. July 24 at the new Knoxville Entrepreneur Center on Market Square in downtown Knoxville. There is no charge to attend, but pre-registration is encouraged. To do so, email either Jill Van Beke at jill@launchtn.org or Linda Nyholm at lnyholm@tech2020.org.