Governor Haslam Announces Innovation Strategy in Tennessee

Thursday, May 05, 2011 | 12:30 pm

Unveils INCITE Initiative as First Step Towards Innovation Leadership in Southeast

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced a $50 million initiative designed to support innovation across the state. The goal of the program, called INCITE for its focus on innovation, commercialization, investment, technology and entrepreneurship, is to raise Tennessee’s profile in innovation-based economic development and drive growth in the creation of knowledge-based jobs. INCITE is a component of Haslam’s recently announced Jobs4TN strategy and will be managed by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD).

“In a global economy, a focus on innovation along with raising our achievements in education is the best approach to moving our state’s economy forward,” Haslam said. “Tennessee has remarkable assets in research and development. We need to do a better job of leveraging these assets and growing innovative new companies to reach our goal of becoming the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”
 
Haslam outlined four areas of focus for the INCITE initiative:
 
Innovation Coordination- Haslam’s Jobs4TN strategy created nine distinct economic development regions across the state.  ECD will work with each of the nine regions to develop a strategic plan for economic development, each containing a strategy for developing innovation using the region’s unique assets. The Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC) will play a key role in assisting with the development of these plans and will partner with ECD to hold an annual Governor’s Conference on Innovation to share best practices.
 
Commercialization- ECD will launch a series of initiatives designed to help move new products and technologies from the research lab to the marketplace faster. In March 2011, Haslam announced $10 million in funding for the Memphis Research Consortium to enhance commercialization partnerships as a first step in this process.  ECD will work with TTDC to identify other opportunities to enhance technology commercialization activities across the state.
 
Entrepreneurship- ECD will fund a new or existing business incubator in each of the state’s nine economic development regions. To receive funding, business incubators will commit to meeting critical benchmarks, such as raising specific amounts of private sector capital for its tenant companies. ECD will also create a statewide incubator network to share best practices and support efforts to raise private capital.  As part of this effort, a Governor’s Award for Entrepreneurship will be created and awarded each year at the Governor’s Conference on Innovation.
 
Co-Investment Funds- Tennessee will target $30 million toward the creation of early stage, seed, and mezzanine capital co-investment funds. These funds will be designed to be self-sustaining and to compliment Tennessee’s existing TNInvestco and Pathway Lending programs. ECD is currently in discussions with the U.S. Treasury Department to provide funding for these programs through the State Small Business Credit Initiative. ECD expects the co-investment fund to be operational by fall 2011.
 
The remainder of the investment is made up of a combination of state and federal funds.
 
“We feel INCITE is the best approach for the state in leveraging the energy and capital of the private sector to grow innovative companies in Tennessee,” ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty said. “Tennessee has a great entrepreneurial spirit and great innovation assets, we simply need to enhance the environment for those ideas to take root, grow and create new jobs.”
 
About the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s mission is to develop strategies which help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.The department seeks to attract new corporate investment in Tennessee and works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth. To find out more, go to www.tn.gov/ecd or www.investtennessee.org.