The University of Tennessee Research Foundation’s annual Maturation Grant Funding program helps UT innovators advance new technologies on their path to market.
Open to all researchers, faculty, staff and students across UT campuses and institutes, the Maturation Grant program provides up to $15,000 to winning proposals. In 2023, UTRF maturation grants funded 11 innovations, including an award to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and its first-ever award to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s School of Music.
School of Music faculty Wesley Baldwin, Jon Hamar and Hillary Herndon received a 2023 grant for “Mosaic,” a collected anthology of beginning-level works by composers underrepresented in the pedagogical canon, specifically Black and Latino composers.
“The works selected represent a wide range of music history, with the intent to bring to light composers and works that have been historically overlooked in our pedagogy,” said Herndon. “The Maturation Grant was instrumental to our ability to complete our project. We are grateful to the program for helping us reach our goal.”
Erkan Kaplanoglu, associate professor at UT Chattanooga, and a team of researchers from UTC and Marmara University received funding for their technology, a wearable device that will provide a non-surgical, non-invasive treatment for upper extremity essential tremors. With the funding, the team will produce two versions of the device and contact clinics to test usability.
“I have been working with UTRF since my first invention disclosure and am grateful for their facilitation and constructive help from day one,” said Kaplanoglu. “The UTRF Maturation Grant is one of the most important tools for UT inventors to deliver what we produce in the lab to people.”
“The funds that UTRF awards through the maturation grant program are especially valuable to faculty like Dr. Kaplanoglu, who is motivated by bringing his research out of the lab and to market so that it can benefit society,” said UT Chattanooga’s Commercialization Counselor Jennifer Herrett Skjellum. “The process of developing and protecting intellectual property to bring it to the market may take years to complete and is an ongoing process that may require formal testing or certification. The use of the maturation grant funds will accelerate this process for Dr. Kaplanoglu as he explores commercial opportunities for his innovative solution.”
For past grant recipients like Monica Jablonski, Hamilton Professor and Vice Chair and Director of Research at UT Health Science Center’s Hamilton Eye Institute, UTRF’s funds gave additional credibility to her work, allowing her to secure additional pools of funding to further her technology.
Jablonski founded OculoTherapy, a startup dedicated to advancing a next-generation glaucoma treatment, 10 years ago. After receiving grants in 2017 and 2018, Jablonski and her team were able to generate preliminary data, which helped them secure SBIR grants and matching fund grants from Launch Tennessee.
“I think these grants are a wonderful mechanism to support new ideas,” said Jablonski. “Anyone who has an idea, I strongly recommend you apply. It changed how I run my lab and everything that comes out of it.”
Another Maturation Grant recipient, Mojdeh Dehghan, Professor, Associate Dean of Faculty and Students, UT College of Dentistry, and her research team used their 2021 grant to develop a new formulation for their technology – Neutramel lozenges – and move toward commercialization.
“The UTRF Maturation fund was instrumental in helping us advance our project forward,” said Dehghan. “The grant provided us with money to fund our clinical taste and effectiveness study, hire a lab assistant to help with testing and sample production, and develop a partnership with a nutritional supplement manufacturing company to produce samples of our lozenges.”
UTRF is proud to provide funding to support the advancement of UT technologies. Interested inventors should learn more on the UTRF website and submit eligible projects this fall for the 2024 cycle.
“Over the past decade and a half, UTRF has awarded over $1 million in grants to over 100 projects,” said UTRF President Maha Krishnamurthy. “The Maturation Grant program is an essential tool in furthering UTRF’s mission to promote the commercialization of UT intellectual property. I look forward to seeing the great work our 2023 awardees will accomplish.”