Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mid-TN coalition leverages UT-Oak Ridge technology commercialization

Nashvillians might take note that Tom Rogers (right), the long-time president of Oak Ridge-based Tech2020, is joining the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Partnership Directorate as director of industrial and economic partnerships. Middle Tennessee will be more than a blip on Rogers' radar. Because Rogers' move has been a loosely guarded secret, no one knew about it during yesterday's Vanderbilt-hosted meeting of the Mind2Marketplace technology-commercialization consortium. However, M2M Chair Andrea Loughry (left) told us this morning that tomorrow she'll meet at Oak Ridge with Rogers and his new boss, Tom Ballard, to discuss collaboration. Loughry knows how to leverage UT ties: She's not only a UT alumna, she is also Gov. Phil Bredesen's vice chair of the UT Board of Trustees. And, she's a staunch Rutherford County Chamber booster and the semi-retired co-owner of a Murfreesboro insurance firm. The MTSU- and Rutherford County-centered M2M movement was spurred by a challenge issued nearly three years ago by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (at right) Gordon is now chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology. In 2005, he urged leaders in his Sixth District to help accelerate movement of local universities' intellectual property to market. Gordon's constituents are hoping, no doubt, he'll be a catalyst in driving government funding and other resources toward Tennessee, much as Rep. Zach Wamp (3rd Dist.) has done. Employing sector-specific targeting as a stratagem, M2M hopes to establish Middle Tennessee as a leader in such fields as aerospace (leveraging Tullahoma-based UT Space Institute and Arnold Engineering Development Center); biotechnology (capitalizing on MTSU programs, as well as on Franklin-based BioMimetic Therapeutics and the Cool Springs Life Sciences Center); and, distribution-logistics. The lack of an ORNL-scale innovation generator is no constraint, Loughry said this morning. She sees M2M connecting and nourishing "ideas and the persons who create them," wherever they may be. Toward such ends, M2M is also pursuing partnerships with Vanderbilt, UT-Chattanooga, Tennessee State University, tech institutions in Memphis and Huntsville, and numerous others.

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