Startup Accelerator Spotlight: Innovation Crossroads

Innovation Crossroads

Innovation Crossroads is the first of its kind located in the Southeastern United States and third to launch at a Department of Energy national laboratory.

Innovation Crossroads

Tom Rogers

Name of AcceleratorInnovation Crossroads

Location: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee


Managing Directors: Tom Rogers and Beth Conerty

This article is part of our Startup Accelerator Spotlight Series featuring accelerators from around the world. We hope these spotlights will assist the entrepreneur should they consider attending an accelerator program.

In two sentences or less, tell us about your accelerator and its objectives.

Innovation Crossroads is a new program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to support the next generation of energy entrepreneurs to create companies that will solve our nation’s energy challenges. The program will provide innovators with a unique support system, matching them with technology leaders, experienced mentors and business and investment networks that can accelerate the transition of their world-changing ideas to the marketplace.

Check Out the Global Accelerator Register.

Why is your accelerator program unique? Please describe the benefits of participation in your program.

Innovation Crossroads
Innovation Crossroads is the first of its kind located in the Southeastern United States, and third to launch at a Department of Energy national laboratory. ORNL is DOE’s largest science and energy lab. East Tennessee is home to some of the country’s greatest innovators, so it’s uniquely positioned to help entrepreneurs advance their ideas and successfully launch new companies. Innovation Crossroads is part of DOE’s Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP). Leep’s public-private partnership model embeds innovators in the national laboratory environment providing the critical mentorship and technical support needed to advance the technologies from proof-of-concept into the marketplace.

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What is the most difficult part of working with startups?

Innovation Crossroads

Beth Conerty

Energy startups face many challenges throughout the journey from having an idea to taking it to commercial practice, like limited early-stage capital, long validation requirements, and difficulty scaling up laboratory technology to commercial scale. Innovation Crossroads is uniquely positioned to help some of the challenges startups face. Innovators will be able to focus full time on developing their business idea. Plus, ORNL’s diverse capabilities enable startups to carry out the research needed to accelerate the delivery of solutions to the marketplace.

What do you enjoy the most; what do you find most appealing about working with entrepreneurial startups?

To be an entrepreneur takes an inherent level of passion and enthusiasm. Everyone we get to work with brings these qualities to the table. Additionally, getting to work in the energy space means that the entrepreneurs we work with are focused on solving large, global issues of energy consumption and climate change. There is no better group of people to help achieve their dreams.

Are You Prepared for the Entrepreneurial Journey?

Innovation Crossroads What are the three most important factors startup entrepreneurs should consider when contemplating attending an accelerator?

  1. Networking 
    Do the mentors and team members have the expertise and connections you need to succeed and achieve your goals? Get to know as many folks involved in the program as possible before you commit. Make sure the team can help with your specific situation and needs.
  2. Technology
    Is the accelerator program the right fit for your industry? While some accelerator programs would work for any type of business, a cleantech startup would be better suited to an accelerator that focuses specifically on this sector.
  3. Culture
    What’s the atmosphere and culture of the work environment? Do your research on what a typical day might look like while working with the accelerator team/mentors and decide if you can all work together productively. Discuss work styles, how the team would approach certain challenges your startup has faced and how to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Accelerator Attendance: What Should You Consider?

What else would you like to share?

Innovation Crossroads provides the next generation of energy entrepreneurs with the resources, funding and support needed to create companies that can transform the nation’s energy economy.

In search of an accelerator that aligns with your startup needs?  Try TurboFunder’s Find My Accelerator search tool.

Are you familiar with other accelerators you believe should be spotlighted?  If so, we would like to hear from you. Tell us about them, sharing your comments below!

Pam Goforth

Pam Goforth is Research Manager for FundingSage, which provides valuable information, tools and resources to entrepreneurs seeking to start, grow and fund a business.