Sunday, November 23, 2008

Conference unites ideas, cash

More than 30 scientists exhibited their ideas on topics from alternative fuels to agriculture during a conference in downtown Nashville on Friday, as part of the state's push to bring more entrepreneurship here.

The Tennessee Innovation Conference, organized by the Tennessee Technology Development Corp. and held at the Doubletree Hotel Nashville, brought together scientists and venture capitalists for two days to discuss potential projects.

"We need this strategic dialogue on the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship to economic growth," said Eric Cromwell, the company's president and CEO. "We view this conference as the starting point for that dialogue."

The Tennessee Technology Development Corp. is a private corporation created by the state legislature in 1998. Its mission is to improve the state's competitiveness and economy by deepening its research and development base, ac ce l erating entrepreneurship and increasing access to risk capital.

In 2007, the corporation received $5 million from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. It has until 2010 to prove its development strategies add to the state's economic development and warrant taxpayer funds, Cromwell said.

That's no small order, especially in a time of financial uncertainty, as well as a general apathy toward entrepreneurship and innovation, Cromwell said. But, he added, the downturn may push people concerned about their jobs to start small businesses.

Entrepreneurs from various sectors held sessions Friday demonstrating their products. After their presentations, venture capitalists questioned them.

Ronald B. Michaels, a technical director at Seymour, Tenn.-based Phenotype Screening Corp. showed off the RootViz FS, a sub-$250,000 product that takes X-rays of a plant's roots. Scientists can use it to help improve a plant's yield, resistance and tolerance. So far, the company has sold one unit.

"I think it's a good thing to bring in venture capitalists and investors because the lifeblood of small business is money," Michaels said.

Building America’s Next Major Economic District
Regional banks to sell maximum stock amount
Yet Another Mixed-Use Lifestyle Community Begins Development
Pathfinder Therapeutics gets financing