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Innovation Crossroads: ORNL Energy-startup accelerator aborning
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Updated: Sept. 20, 2016 - 1439 - A DOE spokesman told VTC this morning the new program represents a "node" on DOE's Tech-to-Market's Lab Embedded Entrepreneurship Program, in conjunction with DOE's Advanced Manufacturing Office. The 9/20 Embedded EP release is here.-Ed.

OAK RIDGE National Laboratory is launching a new accelerator and training program in the Oak Ridge area for clean-energy entrepreneurs.

Venture Tennessee research indicates the accelerator program is dubbed Innovation Crossroads.

Without formally revealing the name of the accelerator, ORNL made the announcement in general terms, in a mailing to newsmedia, this morning.

Coincidentally or not, unveiling of the project coincides with today's kickoff of the robust Innova865 Week of startup Pitch events and related activities in Knoxville.

ORNL said panelists are to discuss the whole matter tomorrow afternoon at ORNL's National Transportation Research Center at 2 p.m. ET, in Knoxville. Panelists include:

  • Thomas Zacharia, Deputy Director for Science and Technology, ORNL, and a member of the Board of Launch Tennessee.
  • Mark Johnson, Advanced Manufacturing Office Director, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, US DOE
  • Johanna Wolfson, Technology-to-Market Director, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, US DOE
  • Charlie Brock, President & CEO, Launch Tennessee (Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, TTDC, chaired by Knoxville's Randy Boyd, commissioner of Tennessee Economic & Community Development). Brock has also served as a member of the Board of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and is chairman of FourBridges Capital Advisors, in Chattanooga.
  • Philip Taynton, CTO & Co-founder, Mallinda, a Colorado advanced-composites firm recently admitted to the Cyclotron Road incubator of DOE Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
  • Thomas McDonald, Chief Science Officer, Mosaic Materials, a Bay Area firm focused on selective, efficient gas adsorbents, admitted to Cyclotron.
  • Moe Khaleel, Associate Laboratory Director, Energy and Environmental Sciences, ORNL
  • Tom Rogers, Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development Director, ORNL

ORNL has established Twitter and Facebook accounts for an "Innovation Crossroads" initiative, which it has described as "a new program for energy innovators to partner with Oak Ridge National Lab to advance their ideas to market readiness."

Innovation Crossroads is also the title used last week in a related mailing by Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, of which ORNL is a member. As of this morning, the InnovationCrossroads.org URL is not active. It was registered for ORNL by a Knoxville PR person.

Notably, ORNL Director Thomas Mason, the president/CEO of UT-Battelle, is on the board of "Innovation Valley," a regional economic-development effort affiliated with the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce. A chamber official told Venture Tennessee there's no tie between IV and IC.

ORNL's Director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development Tom Rogers was previously head of both the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce and was founding CEO of the former Tech2020, 1995-2008, which was recently decommissioned. Tech2020 was created largely to bolster ORNL-UT tech transfer in the region.

US DOE previously signaled plans to announce expansion of its 2-year-old Lab-Corps clean-energy accelerator and entrepreneurial training program at the U.S. National Laboratories. The latest cohort of active accelerators is to become operational in October.

Under the DOE program, for example, Argonne NL's Chain Reaction Innovation accelerator in Illinois is inducting its first cohort of teams.

Lab-Corps' earlier disclosures regarding work with other NL's suggest that a Lab-Corps program at ORNL would rely on both DOE and ORNL funding.

At least six other national labs have thus far been involved in DOE's pilot efforts.

A very interesting MIT paper on mitigating clean-energy startups' risk of failure under pressure from the 'VC exit clock' is here.

Earlier: ORNL recently announced it is support 16 small businesses in two rounds of DOE voucher program.

This story will be updated, as warranted. VTC

. last edited 1100 19 Sept 2016

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Tags: accelerators, Department of Energy, DOE, Innova865 Alliance, Innova865 Week, Innovation Crossroads, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, ORNL, Thomas Mason, Thomas Zaccaria, Tom Rogers

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