The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) is involved in an exciting new endeavor to support entrepreneurship in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), along with the commercialization of intellectual property in the Knoxville region.

In partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, UTRF is cosponsoring the Knoxville Scipreneur Challenge, a nine-week training and outreach competition to promote STEM entrepreneurship in the area. The program, organized by Life Science Tennessee, held its inaugural kickoff event earlier this month.

Dr. Trey Fisher of TnT Scientific gives an overview of an available IP at the inaugural kickoff event.

The Knoxville Scipreneur Challenge divides enterprising students, postdoctoral fellows, and mentors into teams and assigns each a STEM-related innovation developed by researchers at the University of Tennessee or ORNL.

During the nine-week challenge, participants learn how to create a business model, raise capital, conduct market research, adhere to government regulations, and pitch to investors. At the culminating pitch competition, participants will show off their ideas to a live audience — teams will pitch their plans to the Knoxville business community in a chance to win cash prizes. This event will take place on November 7 at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm.

Knoxville’s inaugural program is based on Vanderbilt University’s Center for Technology Transfer and Commercialization’s Middle TN Tech Venture Challenge, which was later expanded to Memphis under the new name, the Memphis Scipreneur Challenge.

Life Science Tennessee’s Executive Director Abby Trotter introduces the Knoxville Scipreneur Challenge.

As explained by Life Science Tennessee’s Executive Director Abby Trotter, one of the core purposes of these programs is to promote an “entrepreneurial spirit for life sciences” by equipping burgeoning entrepreneurs with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to turn their innovative ideas into commercial realities.

The Knoxville Scipreneur Challenge will be held concurrently with the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program (I-Corps) fall 2019 regional workshop series, hosted by UTRF and the UT Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. I-Corps will provide Scipreneur participants with a unique perspective, as it centers on the vital customer discovery process of entrepreneurship: getting to know the customer’s needs and whether a proposed solution will help solve their problem. Participants involved in Knoxville’s Scipreneur will be automatically registered for the I-Corps events.

UTRF Vice President Dr. Maha Krishnamurthy explains the value of participating in the NSF I-Corps program.

“UTRF is delighted to encourage opportunities for students and researchers to learn more about the intersection of entrepreneurship and STEM by sponsoring events like the Scipreneur Challenge and I-Corps,” remarked UTRF Vice President Maha Krishnamurthy. “These programs are just another example of how the UT System is dedicated to supporting the growth of entrepreneurship in the state of Tennessee.”