UTRF provides and/or sponsors educational opportunities, networking events, pitch competitions and more. Mentors and UT staff work together to help you move from ideation through and beyond execution.

Mentorship and Training Resources:


NSF I Corps

NSF Innovation Corps at the University of Tennessee

The Innovation Corps (I-Corps) was created in 2011 by the National Science Foundation (NSF), in an effort to support technology researchers as they move innovation beyond the lab and into the marketplace. As part of the I-Corps South Node, the University of Tennessee offers education and other support to introduce the regional research community to the national I-Corps Program.


Three Roots Capital

Three Roots Capital is a provider of impact capital products and advisory services that creates successful outcomes for client companies, and attractive returns for financial partners. They fuel sustainable business growth by providing capital, connections, and expertise.

Checkerboard Portfolio

UTRF Checkerboard Portfolio

The UTRF Checkerboard Portfolio is a collaboration between UTRF and Three Roots Capital to support and mentor UT affiliated startups. The program features insightful events, ongoing support, and resources for local entrepreneurs and the startup business community.


Innov865 Week

Innov865 Week is a week-long series of events that showcase Knoxville as a prime destination for startups and entrepreneurs. It features multiple entrepreneurial opportunities and features a Startup Day Pitch competition with a cash-prize award for the winning presenter(s).

launch tn

Launch TN

As Tennessee’s only statewide collaborative startup network, LaunchTN is positioned to provide all the resources entrepreneurs, small-business owners, inventors, and investors need.

knoxville entrepreneur center

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

KEC’s mission is to build a community where entrepreneurs have access to the capital, customers, and talent they need to be successful. Entrepreneurs are cornerstones that provide economic, social, and cultural value to the communities they are in.


Memphis Bioworks

The Memphis Bioworks Foundation is dedicated to growing the bioscience industry in Memphis and the Mid-South. They offer many services to help entrepreneurs, including an incubator that has an office and wet-lab space to host growing businesses, and accelerators to assist entrepreneurs.

life sciences tennessee

Life Science Tennessee

Life Science Tennessee is a statewide, non-profit, member organization whose mission is to advance and grow the life science industry in Tennessee through advocacy, partnerships, and alignment with economic and workforce development.commitment to advocacy, economic development, workforce development and networking.


Southeast Medical Device Association (SEMDA)

The Southeastern Medical Device Association is a non-profit trade association that supports and promotes medical device companies in the Southeast.


Southeast Biotechnology Industry Organization (SEBIO)

Southeast BIO (SEBIO)’s mission is to foster the growth of the life sciences industry in the Southeastern United States by promoting entrepreneurship and bringing together the key stakeholders active in the development of the industry.

Pitch Competitions (Training/Workshops/Bootcamps)

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.

boyd venture challenge

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.

Additional Startup Resources:

There are a number of local groups with whom UTRF works who are dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship and technology commercialization.

Click on the panels below for more information:


Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) enables the development of entrepreneurial talent through both coursework and events, many of which include the entrepreneurial community. ACEI also supports economic development by assisting with the creation of new businesses launched by students and faculty.
The Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education The Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education unites resources and capabilities from the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to promote advanced research and to provide innovative solutions to global challenges in energy, engineering, and computation.
The Fairview Technology Center Fairview Technology Center’s mission is to support the creation and sucess of growth-based businesses by providing an affordable work environment maximizing their limited start-up capital. By offering quality office and laboratory space, Fairview makes it possible to focus limited capital on research and development and future production of services and goods. Thus, it provides assistance to companies when they need it – in their formative years.
Meritus Ventures, L.P. (Meritus) is a $36.4 million venture capital fund formed to make equity investments in private, expansion-stage companies in predominantly rural areas in central and southern Appalachia.
Entrepreneurs of Knoxville: comprised of entrepreneurs, inventors, investors and business owners, Entrepreneurs of Knoxville is a group that meets weekly to share ideas and provide support to each other.


Innova Memphis is a venture capital firm investing in early stage companies. Innova has invested in multiple companies founded on University of Tennessee inventions. Innova co-invests with MB Ventures in the ZeroTo510 companies.
MB Ventures is a venture capital firm investing in early stage companies. MB has invested in multiple companies founded on University of Tennessee inventions. MB co-invests with Innova Memphis in the ZeroTo510 companies.
Emerge Memphis provides strategic support to startup companies, innovators and entrepreneurs in the Mid-South. In addition to working with entrepreneurs, Emerge also runs a 60,000 square foot incubator in downtown Memphis.