Bioworks recently hosted Brad Smith, the interim director of Launch Tennessee.  Brad was here for a quarterly review of the Greater Memphis Accelerator Consortium’s activities and an overview of the progress made in building the entrepreneurial landscape in Memphis.  We had the opportunity to discuss more ways in which Memphis can partner and engage in the newly established Launch Tennessee initiative.  And, since Brad was joined by Michael Burcham, president and CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, we also discussed best practices from around the state that can be potentially implemented in Memphis.

We heard how, throughout the state of Tennessee, leaders from business, government, economic development and education are joining together in their communities to focus on encouraging and enabling innovation.  It has become abundantly clear that economic growth and overall community success are going to be dependent on successful innovation, particularly technology and bioscience innovation.

The Launch Tennessee initiative’s strategic plan outlines a five-year focus to make Tennessee a national innovation leader.  Smith shared the state’s goal to become number one in the Southeast for high-quality job growth through a coordinated focus on entrepreneurship, commercialization, capital and outreach.

All of this builds from Governor Bill Haslam’s INCITE program that was unveiled at the Tennessee Technology Development Corporation (TTDC) Annual Conference this spring.  INCITE is an acronym for Innovation, Commercialization, Investment, Technology and Entrepreneurship.

As I read all of this, listen to presentations, and as Memphis Bioworks interacts and engages at various levels, I can’t help but be proud of Memphis.  The words, phrases and concepts being outlined should be quite familiar to Memphians.  These are the areas of emphasis and foundations of programs that many in our community have been embracing for years.

This kind of leadership and program success can be found throughout the Memphis community.  The Greater Memphis Accelerator Consortium, for example, consists of a collaboration of regional organizations jump-starting entrepreneurship in the Greater Memphis area through the operation of accelerators and a mentor network.  Specifically, medical device acceleration through the ZeroTo510 program being led by Memphis Bioworks is nearing the first phase of its successful launch, with six strong companies on their way to FDA 510(k) filings.  At the same time, the 90-day boot camp of the Seed Hatchery innovation accelerator is helping entrepreneurs validate their ideas, refine their business models and get ready to launch their businesses.

Or, looking back to 2009, Innova, a pre-seed, seed and early stage investor launched by Bioworks and focused on starting and funding high-growth companies in the biosciences, technology and agbio fields across the state of Tennessee, was awarded TNInvestco status and $20 million in tax credits by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.  These successful initiatives show that Memphis has been a community actively involved in just the kinds of programs and partnerships on which Launch Tennessee is focused.

Tennessee’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship is clear through its Launch Tennessee initiative.  Memphis is being looked to, from throughout the state, as a positive example of a community that “gets it” and is doing something about it. And, while we have our strengths, we can also learn from others in Tennessee and nationally.  Bioworks is excited to work with Launch Tennessee as a strategic partner to help us all realize our mutual goals and entrepreneurial business potential.