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UTRF to Launch Venture Program, Accelerator Fund for UT Startups

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The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) will create the Venture Launch Program and the Accelerator Fund to bring more UT innovations to the world.

“The benefits this kind of program will provide are numerous and invaluable,” said UTRF President Maha Krishnamurthy. “As UTRF looks for ways to support entrepreneurship within UT, this program will be a key step in establishing that culture.”

UTRF protects and commercializes UT’s innovation and research while encouraging an entrepreneurial culture throughout the UT System. The program and fund will help nurture startup companies.

The UT System provided the initial $5 million for the fund, which UT System President Randy Boyd authorized on March 1.

“UT already changes lives through the research and ideas its innovators produce,” said Boyd. “Now, through the Venture Launch Program and the Accelerator Fund, we’ll help our researchers and innovators move more ideas into the world. I’m truly excited to see ideas come to fruition that will help make this the greatest decade and beyond for UT and Tennessee.”

The Venture Launch Program and Accelerator Fund aims to start, grow and retain startups by providing UT’s innovators with the resources needed to transform their ideas into companies through early mentorship and guidance for commercialization. Krishnamurthy said strengthening the entrepreneurial culture will help retain graduates in the ecosystem as entrepreneurs and attract more individuals to UT.

The Accelerator Fund will fill a gap in startup capital for projects and ideas with early market validation, a strong value proposition, a feasible commercial path and a good chance at follow-on funding within two years of securing seed capital.

“We know that access to capital is important to start, grow and scale-up hard tech startup companies,” Krishnamurthy said. “We also know that mentorship and coaching early on can help transform promising innovations into viable business ventures. We plan to do all of that with our new program. We look forward to working with and leveraging partner accelerators, mentor programs and other funding programs to grow viable startups throughout the UT ecosystem.”

Investments will range from $20,000 up to $150,000, and, while the ideas must originate from UT, the startup founders do not have to be UT-based. Funding recommendations will be recommended by an investment advisory committee made up of investors and entrepreneurs.

Krishnamurthy said this program will create new jobs, products and services that will attract additional investment funding and create a cycle of reinvestment in the community.
“It’s hard for startups to grow and set deep roots. We aim to change that through the Venture Launch Program and Evergreen Fund,” she said.

Pending approval by the UTRF Board of Directors on May 3, the fund will be available beginning July 1. Applications can be submitted now on the Launch Program and Accelerator Fund website.


Apply at




Melissa Tindell
505 Summer Place, UT Tower, Knoxville, TN 37902 

Natalie Keener
505 Summer Place, UT Tower, Knoxville, TN 37902  

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Category: Announcements