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The National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Fall Regional program concluded at The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce Thursday, October 19.

The program marked the beginning of UT’s participation in the I-Corps South Node, one of eight regional networks developed to support innovation education, infrastructure, and research.

Shawn Carson, a lecturer at the UT Knoxville Haslam College of Business and Maha Krishnamurthy, UT Research Foundation (UTRF) assistant vice president for licensing, served as instructors for the program, helping twelve teams translate their research into commercial products.

The twelve teams from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Tennessee Tech, Georgia Tech, and Louisiana Tech were selected to participate in the intensive two-week program at UT. Designed by I-Corps South Node, the program helps individuals who are interested in commercializing their research to build a business thesis that addresses the customer need.

From October 3 – 19, each of the 12 teams conducted approximately 20 customer discovery interviews. The key question they attempted to answer was: What do customers need and how does our product fit with their need? On Thursday, the teams shared what they learned about the customer discovery process, how to develop a stronger value proposition, and how to create a minimum viable product based on customer feedback.

Teams selected for the National I-Corps Cohort win a $50,000 NSF-funded grant to conduct 100 interviews to further refine their business thesis. The National I-Corps Cohort is expected to kick off in January 2018. If any of UT’s I-Corps South Node teams are chosen to go to the National I-Corps Cohort, their structure must include an entrepreneurial lead, technical lead, and industry mentor before being selected.

UT joins Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa and the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a member of the I-Corps South Node. UTRF and the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UT Knoxville are co-sponsors of I-Corps South providing knowledgeable instructors with hands-on experience in technology commercialization and a broad, diverse entrepreneurial network.

The NSF I-Corps program was established in 2011 to help scientists and engineers to think beyond the laboratory and identify opportunities for translating research into commercial products that can benefit society. I-Corps regional nodes collaborate in the building, using, and sustaining of a national innovation ecosystem.

Eleven of the twelve teams presented their findings at UT’s I-Corps South Node, and they include:

Peroxygen Systems, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville
Peroxygen Systems is a clean chemistry company developing breakthrough technology for on-site hydrogen peroxide production.

Get the Lead Out, Louisiana Tech
Get the Lead Out has developed novel nanotechnology to enable lightweight solar cells to be used as roof tiles and solar canvases to generate electricity.

Audio Blocks, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville
Audio Blocks builds educational toys and tools for children’s musical development.

TTU Precision, Tennessee Tech
TTU Precision has created a cutting tool monitor instrument that can increase measurement accuracy up to nanometer level.

Electro-Active Technologies, LLC, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville
Electro-Active Technologies has a technology to turn biowaste into a resource for renewable energy generation.

microRNA Technologies, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville
microRNA Technologies has developed a diagnostic kit to enable rapid detection of infections.

Thermal Desalination, Tennessee Tech
Thermal Desalination has created a wastewater processing system that will save manufacturers and farmers with wastewater and runoff water concerns 20 to 30% of their water and sewer utility costs by reusing their outgoing water.

Geo Air, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville
Geo Air uses drones to make heat maps of mold “hot spots” in crops.

SimPath, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville
SimPath has a novel cloning system that generates and rapidly assembles the biological building blocks enabling new discoveries in synthetic biology.

VolTank, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville
VolTank has developed a remote-controlled user adjustable tow system for boat owners who regularly engage in watersports.

Proto-Flow, the University of Tennessee of Knoxville
Proto-Flow’s team has designed a microfluidic device that can capture single cells for transformation, sorting and screening.


The University of Tennessee Research Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that promotes the commercialization of UT intellectual property, encourages an entrepreneurial culture, contributes to state and regional economic development and promotes research and education to benefit the people of Tennessee and beyond. While an entity separate from the University, UTRF provides assistance and resources to the research activities of faculty, staff, and students of the UT system including campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin, Memphis, Tullahoma and the statewide Institute of Agriculture and Institute for Public Service.