AgResearch Launches AgInnovations Program


— Sizing Up Ideas, Speeding Their Flow to Society


Accelerating new technologies and ideas from the lab to the market is the goal of a groundbreaking new program launched this fall by AgResearch. Ambitious in scope, the program, called AgInnovations, has been several years in the making.
AgInnovations is a result of a convergence of factors, including UT’s desire to be an economic driver for Tennessee and a challenge from UT President Joe DiPietro for the university to become more entrepreneurial in finding revenue sources.

AgInnovations provides an early business perspective for ideas percolating in the labs and minds of employees at the Institute. Through the program, an experienced entrepreneur pairs with inventors at the start of the development process to identify the value an idea or technology may potentially hold for targeted customers, its possible financial viability, and its manufacturing and distribution options.

The initial assessment with the entrepreneur can determine an invention’s market potential before substantial time, money, and effort is spent on technological development. Or, it may provide a different direction for research that increases the probability of a commercial pathway. New resources can be brought in to help move promising opportunities forward, including students from the UT Haslam College of Business as well as external resources from the community.

“Research conducted by UTIA faculty is very mission-focused with the faculty wanting to see the results of their work available in the marketplace to enhance people’s lives,” says AgResearch Dean Bill Brown.

“We see AgInnovations as a way to incorporate a business approach into some of our programs to increase the number of ideas, products, and processes that make it to the marketplace and the speed at which they are released.”

The program’s three elements are:
  • Development of commercial products and services not based on intellectual property, such as All Vol Cheese. These opportunities increase the visibility of UTIA and advance its mission.

  • Commercialization plans to increase competitiveness of grant applications.

  • Early market assessment of emerging intellectual property to increase research productivity and the likelihood of products that improve people’s lives.
AgInnovations is also working on programs to increase connections between researchers with industry. Greater communication flow between them is expected to heighten market-directed research, with potential for new grant opportunities and commercial products.

Research consultant Joy Fisher is the entrepreneur who leads the AgInnovations program. Prior to joining UTIA, she spent five years with the UT Research Foundation commercializing technologies. Her background also includes experience with the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship in the Haslam College of Business and as CEO of a chemical start-up company.

“The Institute of Agriculture has always been one of the more application-driven centers at UT,” Fisher says. “Because of the Institute’s innovative nature and its commitment to solving real-life problems, I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with our researchers, faculty, and staff in launching new products, services, and companies based on their ideas.”

To explore how AgInnovations can assist you, contact Fisher at 865-243-7907 cell or Joy.fisher@tennessee.edu. Her office is in 114 McCord.