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UT Startup Company Announced as Winner of the Tennessee Venture Challenge


A Knoxville-based startup company, Peroxygen Systems, Inc., claimed the grand prize at the 2016 Tennessee Venture Challenge (TVC) competition for budding entrepreneurs in early April. Ming Qi of Peroxygen Systems, Inc. received $20,000 from the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF), winning over five other startups whose principals pitched their business ideas to a panel of investors.

The Tennessee Venture Challenge, hosted by the University of Tennessee Research Foundation, was created as a business plan competition for the University of Tennessee community. To be eligible for the competition, potential startup companies must be commercializing intellectual property created at a UT campus or institute.

A separate $5,000 “Crowd Favorite” prize went to Shawn Butler, Austin Scott, and Daniel Wiggins of Farm Specific Technology LLC. Attendees voted through a text-in voting system sponsored by Launch Tennessee. Second-and third-place winners overall were Farm Specific Technology, with a $3,000 prize, and CZ Nutrition, which won $2,000 respectively.

Stacey Patterson, vice president of the Research Foundation, says the competition showcases broad-based technologies throughout the state, hopefully leading to significant economic growth in the region.

“We’re pleased to present Peroxygen Systems with this honor and look forward to seeing how Peroxygen Systems grows in the future. The 2016 Tennessee Venture Challenge saw technologies that represented the broad spectrum of research occurring at the University of Tennessee that have the potential to solve problems and bring tremendous innovations to the global marketplace,” says Patterson.

Ming Qi, a former postdoctoral researcher at UT, started Peroxygen Systems to change the hydrogen peroxide production and delivery process to make it more energy efficient and cost effective. Hydrogen peroxide is used for its oxidizing properties, working as a bleaching agent and disinfectant against bacteria, viruses, spores, and yeasts.

According to Qi, the onsite production of hydrogen peroxide reduces costs for manufacturers by over 50 percent, and more importantly it is environmentally friendly and prevents the dangerous transportation of the chemical.

“We are pretty happy,” said Qi of the prize. “We will really make use of the money to build our first prototype.”

Farm Specific Technology LLC, winners of the $5,000 crowd favorite prize sponsored by Launch Tennessee, is patenting the Flex Roller Crimper, a flexible twist on a piece of farm equipment used to manage cover crops and get rid of pesky weeds.

This year’s panel of four investor judges included: Ken Woody of Innova Memphis; Grady Vanderhoofven of Meritus Ventures; Brian Laden of TriStar Technology Ventures; and Tim Wilson of Artiman Ventures who scored each group’s eight-minute presentation.

The final six teams were selected from university-affiliated startup companies. TVC 2016 preparation began earlier this year with a seven week-long “entrepreneurial bootcamp” that helped inventors tweak their pitches and define their markets. Eight potential startups were selected after the seven-week series to compete in the semifinals. The field was then narrowed again during semi-finals to the six teams that competed in April.

“Moving intellectual property from the lab into the marketplace is one of UTRF’s primary functions, and we’re excited about the enthusiasm for commercialization we’ve seen among the UT research community during this competition,” says Patterson.

This is the second year the UTRF has hosted the challenge. The award funding comes from royalty revenues gained through other UT-owned intellectual properties.