Grant Funding

UTRF Technology Maturation Grant Program

A grant competition that provides UT faculty, staff, and students with grants of up to $15,000 to develop technologies with commercial potential.

Drug Discovery

UTRF Drug Discovery Program

The purpose of the program is to  add commercial value to UTHSC technologies by acquiring early stage drugability data (ADME-tox, PK/PD) on small molecules and early development assays for biologics.


Nominated Awards


Wheeley Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer

The B. Otto and Kathleen Wheeley Award is given to a University of Tennessee faculty member, graduate student, medical and/or pharmacy resident, or post-doc who excels in the commercialization of university-based research results. The award is specifically intended to recognize faculty who take a direct and active role in the commercialization process. Award amounts differ.

innovation driver

UTRF Innovation Driver Award

This special award was created in 2016 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. Cash prize of $1,000.


zero to 510

ZeroTo510 Medical Device Accelerator

The ZeroTo510 Medical Device Accelerator is a first-in-kind entrepreneurial accelerator program that focuses on leveraging key regional strengths of the Memphis area: biomedical research and medical device manufacturing.  The goal of ZeroTo510 is to help medical device startups navigate the startup process, refine their business models and complete the Food and Drug Administration’s 510(k) premarket notification filing.


Start Co.

Part bootcamp, part summer camp, our accelerators are designed to take your business from seed-stage to funding to launch, with every step in between. Building a startup into a business takes a lot of things. Capital. Guidance. Discipline. But above all, it takes work. Relentless work. Work that’s driven by desire and fueled by an unwavering optimism. Work so focused, so purposeful, that in a way, it’s not like work at all. Start Co. is part venture development group, part accelerator, and all work.

Pitch Competitions (Prizes)

vol court

ACEI Vol Court

Vol Court is a six-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a pitch competition where attendees put what they’ve learned into practice by presenting their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,500 in cash, office space in the UTRF Business Incubator and various professional services.

ACEI Boyd Venture Challenge

The Boyd Venture Challenge is a seed-fund grant competition conducted in the spring semester each year. Any UT student-owned (doctoral, masters, undergraduate) business is eligible to apply, and it is open to all UT Knoxville students regardless of academic discipline or degree program. Companies are awarded up to $30,000 in startup capital. Funds may be awarded to one company or split among several companies.

Graves Business Plan Competition

ACEI Graves Business Plan Competition

The annual Graves Business Plan Competition aims to strengthen the entrepreneurial culture and spirit across the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The competition allows participants to enhance their understanding of new venture creation, polish their communication skills, minimize the risks involved in creating a sound business plan, and network with other entrepreneurially-oriented students, successful local entrepreneurs, and potential investors. Students compete to win start-up capital for an original business idea. Prizes are awarded  in two business categories: growth and lifestyle.

Launch TN 36|86

Launch TN 36|86

The mission of 36|86 is to bring southern thinkers, founders and investors together by hosting an annual event in Nashville and inviting a national audience to participate in the experience. This event gathers incredible startup businesses, proven business leaders and strategic investors for a celebration of entrepreneurship and southern culture. Ultimately, this event becomes a platform connecting the “doers,” the “makers,” and the “innovators” in the southeast, around the country, and across the globe. Participants compete for $50,000 in prize money.

Innov865 Startup Day

Innov865 Startup Day

Startup Day is an annual event that showcases Knoxville as a destination for startups and entrepreneurs. The event is part of Innov865 Week which is hosted by the members of the Innov865 Alliance: The University of Tennessee Research Foundation, Oak Ridge National Lab, Launch Tennessee, PYA, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Winners receive cash prizes.

whatsthebigidea day

KEC: What’s the Big Idea – 48 Hour Launch

Shark Tank Meets Lock-In: “What’s The Big Idea?!” is the event for you. Compete to win up to $10k in expense reimbursement in a 48-hour weekend business pitch competition.