By Abbey Lerner
What: TennSMART is a statewide nonprofit consortium that brings together leaders from the public and private sector to accelerate the development and deployment of smart mobility innovations.
TennSMART serves as a collaborative forum for key stakeholders in the automotive and trucking industries, municipalities, utilities, universities, and research institutions to address intelligent mobility opportunities together that no one organization could attain alone.
TennSMART’s work: Through a grant from LaunchTN, TennSMART is creating an ecosystem of mentors, resources, partnerships, and funding opportunities that position Tennessee as the best destination for corporations and small businesses to build technologies that advance the industry.
To support this work, they manage three programs: the Smart Mobility Challenge, the Open Innovation Challenge, and the Smart Mobility Mentor Network.
- The Smart Mobility Challenge is a startup accelerator program that facilitates the transfer of technology from the research institution to the market.
- The Open Innovation Challenge is a new program that aims to catalyze innovation by coupling established businesses with founders to create solutions for technology and operational gaps.
- The Smart Mobility Mentor Network is our ongoing program that allows startup founders to access technical and general business guidance and feedback.
Latest from the team:
- The Tennessee Smart Mobility Expo will be held on December 5-6 in downtown Nashville. The expo brings together transportation leaders, automotive OEMs, and industry-leading mobility and technology companies to showcase the latest transportation research, technologies, and solutions being developed, built, and deployed in the state.
- They are launching a new platform, the TennSMART Mobility Hub, in August. This is a one-stop shop to explore grant and funding opportunities, connect the dots on research programs and partnerships, and get plugged into a vibrant network of industry, academic, and government partners on one platform.
Failing Forward with TennSMART, as told by Sara Pruneski, TennSMART’s Communications and Member Relations Director:
As in other industries, founders may come up with a new technology or product that doesn’t solve a problem an established company—like an automaker—has. Sometimes, the best thing for an entrepreneur to do is to go to an established company and ask directly what challenges they face in technology or operations.
Eric Fuller, president and CEO of U.S. Xpress, attested to this during his session at the CO.MOBILITY Summit this year when he said the best interactions he’s had with startups are when they ask him what they can do for him.
The product-market fit isn’t a new lesson but the automotive industry can be particularly stubborn to break into. TennSMART is trying to address this through events where startups can meet with OEMs and other leading companies as well as through our Open Innovation Challenge program.