Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the University of Tennessee (UT) System have formed the Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator in partnership with Techstars, a Colorado company that supports entrepreneurs with a worldwide network of funding opportunities and other resources. This will be the first Techstars-operated accelerator in Tennessee, the first affiliated with a national laboratory, and the first focused on “Industries of the Future.”
The accelerator will work with 30 start-ups over the next three years that use clean energy, artificial intelligence, big data, cybersecurity, digital currency, 5G and other innovations to transform society.
The effort, announced on June 3, will combine forces of the country’s largest science and energy lab in ORNL, the nation’s biggest public power utility in TVA, and UT research and education resources that have won international awards for bringing technology to the marketplace.
“Working with ORNL, TVA and UT to foster an environment where startups building advancements in the Industries of the Future can come together and thrive is a unique and galvanizing opportunity,” said Techstars General Manager Nancy Wolff. “The heart of the Oak Ridge Corridor and the abundant scientific research and quantum computing facilities available to entrepreneurs is game changing for startups tackling the most critical problems of our future.”
The accelerator is expected to create an environment where startups focused on Industries of the Future can come to the Oak Ridge-Knoxville area and thrive. The program will begin accepting applications for its inaugural class in July. Members of that group will refine their technologies, receive mentorship, find and develop talent, and connect to organizations who could become customers while gaining access to Techstars’ global network.
“Research and technology from ORNL and from companies that have grown up here have made a difference in lives around the world,” said Thomas Zacharia, director of ORNL. “In the next three years, the Techstars accelerator will attract high-potential companies in fields that will define the economy in the generations to come. This is a unique opportunity to share our region’s great strengths with rising entrepreneurs.”
Jeff Lyash, president and CEO of TVA, said he sees how work they do in the Southeast can impact the accelerator in Oak Ridge-Knoxville, and then the world.
"Today, innovative startup companies have the opportunity to deliver impactful benefits, similar to those of nearly 90 years ago when TVA first brought electricity that transformed the lives of the people in this region we are privileged to serve," Lyash said. "We look forward to supporting the companies that participate in the Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator to drive advanced solutions with enormous energy, economic and environmental benefits for the people of the Valley, the country and the world."
UT President Randy Boyd likewise highlighted the broad impact of the accelerator and the partners’ support.
“The University of Tennessee is committed to being an economic driver for Tennessee,” Boyd said. “The resources available with our partners and through the Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator will establish the Oak Ridge Corridor as a world-class location for breakthrough technology startups to benefit people and provide jobs. Working together, this initiative will catalyze tremendous entrepreneurial growth for our region’s future.”
Startups are expected to participate in the Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator from fields such as clean energy, smart cities, robotization and autonomy, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, edge computing, sharing economy, cybersecurity and cryptography, IoT, 5G and advanced communication, grid scale energy storage, digital currency, industry 4.0 and battery technology.
Startups interested in the accelerator can learn more by visiting https://www.techstars.com/accelerators/industries-of-the-future. Corporations interested in learning more about Techstars’ dedication to corporate innovation can learn more at techstars.com/corporate.