Part of UT’s new tech-driven innovation center


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Nine institutions are creating an inclusive innovation corridor connecting the southern region.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is a founding member of the National Science Foundation’s new Mid-South Innovation Corps Center, a consortium of nine diverse technology-forward universities.

The center will develop and support talented entrepreneurs, foster new high-growth companies, and promote inclusive economic development and prosperity, transforming metro areas in the Mid-South into thriving innovation hubs.

The center will be launched in January 2023 and will help the region boost its innovation economy capacity by at least 2028.

“Using our resources and partnerships to create new technologies, new jobs and new jobs is what a modern ground-breaking university should do,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “UT is recognized globally for our excellence in scientific and engineering research. I am excited to build on these strengths as talented entrepreneurs create new products and services to improve lives for the people of Tennessee and others around the world.”

It plans to strengthen the state’s innovation economy by fostering economic development by creating high-tech companies and creating and sustaining thriving community ecosystems, increasing the number of academic innovators who think and act like entrepreneurs, and contributing to the success of industries. They are important to Tennessee’s future.

In the year In fiscal year 2021, UT reported research expenditures totaling $316 million, UT researchers generated 137 invention patents, and the university supported the creation and growth of more than 30 promising high-tech ventures. UT’s largest research portfolio is in advanced energy, with the university consistently ranking sixth in the nation for U.S. Department of Energy funding.

In addition to UT, founding members include Vanderbilt University, George Mason University, Jackson State University, Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and University of Virginia.

“We are excited to join our partners in growing Tennessee’s innovation economy,” said UT Vice Chancellor for Research Deborah Crawford. “UT aims to support and grow hundreds of high-tech jobs over the next five years, and the Mid-South hub will be critical to our success.”

The effort also received broad bipartisan support from Tennessee federal lawmakers, including Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty and Representatives Tim Burchett, Jim Cooper and Chuck Fleishman.

In the near future, members plan to convene for a conference to develop a five-year vision for the center’s comprehensive innovation corridor.

“The corridor supports UTA’s efforts to further nurture and grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Mark Gibson, associate chancellor for research. “Through this partnership and accelerating the translation of new jobs into new jobs, we will together grow the state as an innovation and marketing hub.”

In the year Established in 2011, the NSF I-Corps program is designed to commercialize new technologies that grow through discoveries in basic science and engineering. Since its inception, more than 1,900 NSF I-Corps teams have participated in the program.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,


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