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UT Names Recipients of Inaugural Chancellor’s Innovation Fund Awards 

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

Five faculty entrepreneurs, which includes three from the Tickle College of Engineering, who have developed technologies with the potential for commercialization have had their projects selected for the inaugural Chancellor’s Innovation Fund. These faculty, whose research range from athletic field safety to quantum computing, will each receive $50,000 and the support they need to help move their technology from the lab toward the marketplace.

The Chancellor’s Innovation Fund, which is administered by the Office of Research, Innovation, and Economic Development, is aimed at bolstering East Tennessee’s entrepreneurship pipeline and providing a pathway to commercialize technology for faculty.

“Translating the discoveries our faculty make into technology that works for people is one of the most visible ways we carry out our mission as a land-grant research university,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “I am proud of this initiative and the gaps it helps bridge. Without this kind of seed money, many high-tech ideas like these would never make it to the people who need them.

The recipients, who will be honored at an award ceremony on February 21, were chosen through a rigorous process that included a pitch competition where they were asked to describe the benefits of their technology and how the funding would help propel their ideas to market.

Evaluations of the projects were based on their ability to address an unmet market need, the current state of technology, the proposed technology development plan and the funding’s impact on commercialization. UT Research Foundation supported the program by evaluating proposals and coaching participants.

“We often talk about conducting research that makes life and lives better and the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund is a perfect example of putting these words into action.” said Rob Coleman, ORIED’s director of entrepreneurship and new ventures. “Our five awardees will utilize this funding over the next 12 months to refine their technology, develop prototypes and conduct validation testing to ensure their solutions are addressing specific customer needs.”

The following projects from TCE faculty were selected for awards:

Reimagining Superconducting Logic Systems with Ferroelectric SQUID and Heater Cryotron

Assistant Professor Ahmedullah Aziz, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Ahmedullah Aziz

Aziz’s project seeks to revolutionize superconducting processors essential for quantum computing, high-performance computing systems and space electronics. His project involves simulation, fabrication and characterization to assess and advance this promising superconducting logic system.

A portion of the award funds will be used to fabricate and characterize wafer-scale superconducting circuits at the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems in Dresden, Germany. The remainder will be used to support a part-time graduate research assistant responsible for the physical design and testing of the chips.

“Working at UT allows me to collaborate with some of the brightest minds in my field, access cutting-edge resources, and engage in impactful research that can contribute to advancements in science and technology,” said Aziz. “It provides a stimulating environment where the emphasis on research aligns with my passion for pushing the boundaries of knowledge and making meaningful contributions to my field. I am grateful for this opportunity.”

Data Engine, Automated Visualization

Professor Jian Huang, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Tickle College of Engineering

Jian Huang

Huang’s project is based on his research in the fields of visualization, big data and cloud computing. He coined the term Visualization as a Service, or VaaS, and his project aims to create intelligent VaaS to generate analysis and visualization apps for users, especially those working in organizations that need to use big data but cannot afford to hire their own data scientists.

Huang will use his award to boost the technological readiness level of intelligent VaaS—specifically, to turn research methods in a university lab into a prototype system that users can operate in business-critical settings.

Huang said that working in a research university has allowed him a unique kind of intellectual pursuit in both teaching and research. “Over the past 20 years at UT, I’ve been blessed with having great students. They are talented, passionate and daring,” he said. “Working with them has given me the energy and sustainability needed to make the kind of explorations that I’ve really enjoyed.”

Aligned Nonwoven Composites Using Carding Technology

UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Uday Vaidya, researcher Pritesh Yeole and graduate research assistant Vinit Chaudhary, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering

Vaidya, Yeole, and Chaudhary’s project deals with creating value-added material forms from carbon, glass and natural fibers. It can be compared to combing out a ball of tangled hair. For example, waste carbon fiber can be carded or combed into straight fiber that can be woven into value-added engineered products. The process also creates opportunities to minimize landfill and use fibers in subsequent applications that range from mass transit, trucks, cars and boats to sporting goods and other areas.

The award funds will be used to expand the scale of the carding and combing to produce materials that will enable prototype parts to discuss with potential customers.

“With industry partners such as the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation and opportunities at the UT Oak Ridge Innovation Institute, the Bredesen Center and the UT Research Foundation, the ecosystem offers amazing opportunities for entrepreneurship, high-impact research and workforce development for the next generation,” said Vaidya.

Full story: UT Names Recipients of Inaugural Chancellor’s Innovation Fund Awards – Tickle College of Engineering

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