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UTRF Vice President announces first-ever Innovation Driver Award

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee Research Foundation recognized dozens of University of Tennessee researchers for their discoveries and commercialization efforts made within the last year at the 2016 Innovation Awards Ceremony, held December 2 at The Foundry on the Fair Site.

“License agreements stemming from patented technologies generate revenue for the University and can develop into new companies, which contribute to local and regional economic development and impact the quality of life for Tennesseans,” said Dr. David Millhorn, President of the UT Research Foundation. Once the University patents a technology, it can then be licensed to outside companies for further development and commercialization.

Honorees included 29 recipients of patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as well as 12 inventors of technologies that were licensed to outside companies or who had created a start-up company based on their technology. In some cases, researchers received awards in more than one category. Patent Plaque presentations, UTRF Start Up Award, UTRF License Certificate presentations and 2017 UTRF Maturation Grant Funding recipients were announced at the ceremony. State Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), a supporter of innovation culture, was in attendance at the event. Sen. Briggs serves in District 7, which covers part of Knox County.

During the ceremony Dr. Stacey Patterson, UTRF Vice President also announced the first-ever Innovation Driver Award. This special award was created this year to recognize faculty inventors who are relatively new working with UTRF, meaning they have submitted their first invention disclosure within the last three years but have demonstrated an enthusiasm, an excitement and a drive to take those inventions and ideas to the commercial market.

“The commercialization process can be really intense, and it takes patience and perseverance,” said Patterson. “So this year because of all the work that goes into the process, we wanted to recognize these newest faculty members who have shown the ambition that it takes to make an idea a commercialization success.”

Four faculty members were nominated for the award, and each of them were recognized for their contributions in diverse research and technology. Nominees included; John Auxier, Alison McNabb, Ky Pohler, and Suresh Babu.  Instead of picking one winner, the UTRF Licensing Team decided to choose two recipients for this honor.

The first Innovation Driver Award went to Dr. Suresh Babu, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing in UT’s Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering as well as the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. The second Innovation Driver Award was presented to Dr. Ky Pohler in the Department of Animal Science at the UT Institute for Agriculture. They each received a $1,000 check from UTRF.

“I applaud all of the award winners and everyone who was recognized,” said Grady Vanderhoofven, Fund Manager of Meritus Ventures and President & CEO of Three Roots Capital.

Vanderhoofven is no stranger to innovation. He led the creation of twelve start-up companies founded to commercialize products and services based on technology developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“Innovation is at the heart of everything we do, so I express my own appreciation and applaud UTRF for placing such a big emphasis on this type of activity,” added Vanderhoofven.

For the past two years, the University of Tennessee has been ranked among the top 100 universities in the world granted U.S. patents.

Complete list of UTRF (Multicampus office) patent, license, and start up recipients.