UTRF Incubator

Trying to decide if the Incubator is the right nursery for your startup or technology? Come check it out in person! On September 27, the Incubator will host an open house from 2 to 4 p.m., where you can tour the facility, hear from former and current tenants, and learn more about the opportunities the Incubator offers. Join us for the pre-open house Rise and Grind at 1:00 p.m. to hear Adam McCall, CEO of UTRF’s spinout company, Prisma Renewable Composites LLC, teach you more about what it takes to raise funding in Knoxville.

The Incubator, located at 2450 E.J. Chapman Drive and established in 2007, serves as a homebase for early-stage firms with a UT affiliation, either through founders or development of intellectual property. Guiding young companies through the business development process and providing office space and resources, the Incubator affords startups the unique opportunity to focus their limited resources and capital on the development of their business in a professional environment. To date, more than 46 companies have made the Incubator their home; 10 startups and counting have “graduated,” having successfully prepared for the marketplace or acquisition.

Beyond office resources, one of the tremendous advantages the Incubator offers tenants is mentorship. In addition to the network of fellow tenants who have “been there, done that,” UTRF collaborates with Three Roots Capital (3Roots), a Knoxville-based investment capital company, to provide startups with business development support. The UTRF Checkerboard Portfolio, launched in early 2017, engages companies on topics such as raising capital, managing finances, and running an efficient business. 3Roots also offers financing opportunities out of funds designated for low-income and rural areas.

UTRF, 3Roots, and the Best Behavior Creative Club also present Rise and Grind events, a quarterly series of informational get-togethers where the UT entrepreneurial community can network and learn. In October 2017, the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UT’s Haslam College of Business opened its ACEI Business Accelerator on the first floor of the Business Incubator, focused on cultivating the startups of current UT students. Entrepreneurs-in-residence, along with Anderson Center faculty, mentor and guide these student entrepreneurs.

“We help student companies with the highest potential of becoming investible,” said Lynn Youngs, Executive Director of ACEI. “The Incubator’s location is ideal – on the edge of the Ag Campus but in proximity to the rest of UT-Knoxville. For the Anderson Center, it worked really well because it gives us the space to work with those companies that already are here.”

The Incubator’s Open House is just one highlight of the Innov865 Alliance’s Innov865 Week, held Sept. 23-28, 2018. The annual celebration of Knoxville’s entrepreneurial spirit brings together startups, entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders, students, and the East Tennessee community for a week of educational panels, pitch competitions, investor roundtables, and social events.

Xueping Li


Xueping Li

Innov865 Week shines a spotlight on the local entrepreneurial community that UTRF’s Incubator supports all year long. Current and past tenants credit the care and hands-on experience they received there for gifting them the opportunity to develop their technology, business skills, and mindset vital to business success. Incubator alums include:

ResourceIO, Inc. – This business monitors critical industrial equipment for distributors, service companies, and plants. After four years at the Incubator, President and Founder Karl Dittrich praised the “great internet connection” and “terrific cost-savings,” saying, “There are just so many ways that this place is helpful. It’s a great environment!”

Oculus Imaging, LLC – This medical imaging core lab works with medical device vendors to gather data needed for FDA clearance. Vice President Jennifer Woodward credits the Incubator’s “incredible security” with providing the high level of protection necessary in this field.

Arkis Biosciences – This neurosurgical medical device startup company credits the Incubator with providing “a wonderful opportunity to get started and to grow to the success we’re having,” CEO Chad Seaver said. “The Incubator provided the space and the facilities we needed to have the infrastructure to grow. It has provided some key relationships for us.”

GAP Connections – This nonprofit organization works within the agriculture industry to promote best practices. Executive Director and President Jane Chadwell said, “[The Incubator] ended up being a perfect home for us. You have some breathing room to focus on your business and on what really matters.”