Innovation Begins at Home

Innovation Begins at Home

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—The University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science and the UVA Office of the Vice President for Research are co-sponsoring the first-­ever “Future Forum,” on April 11 at 7 p.m. in the Paramount Theater in Downtown Charlottesville. The free community event, which will kick off the 2016 Tom Tom Founders Festival, will feature some of the area’s most visionary leaders sharing what they see for the future of the Charlottesville and the region, including Professor Pamela Norris, UVA Engineering’s executive associate dean for research. The event will address some of the central questions about working, founding, and living in our Creative Economy.

The Forum is cohosted by the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, Piedmont Council for the Arts, Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, and Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development. Admission is free, and all students, faculty, staff and friends of the School of Engineering are cordially invited to attend.

“The Future Forum will be a must­-attend event for everyone passionate about the future of Charlottesville,” said Festival Director Paul Beyer. “Whether you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, investor, artist, parent, University graduate student, or downtown worker, this wide-­ranging discussion will leave everyone educated and inspired. We hope that the conversations started here will continue for the months to come as we collectively shape Charlottesville and Albemarle County.”

“The University of Virginia and the UVA School of Engineering form the epicenter of the research, innovation and entrepreneurship that recently prompted the National Venture Capital   Association to name Charlottesville as the fastest-­growing venture capital ecosystem in the    United States,” said Craig Benson, dean of the School of Engineering. “Although UVA’s research breakthroughs have worldwide reach, we know the impact begins here in our hometown. The Future Forum will provide excellent inspiration for our community’s continued, transformative leadership.”

Topics discussed will include: What assets does Charlottesville have for new and growing organizations? How does Charlottesville stack up compared to other innovative cities? How do  the arts affect our economy? How does our hospitality industry support and invigorate our local culture? How do government and education help create the conditions to attract and retain dynamic people and businesses?

Following a 6 p.m. reception, the Forum will begin at 7 p.m. with fast-­paced presentations from      some of the region’s biggest stars making national impact in technology, art, music, food, and education. Interspersed throughout the night will be “milestone tweets” from leaders of dozens of high­-impact organizations (ranging from venture-funded startups to government bodies) that will briefly share their “big wins” over the last year and will feature the hashtag


“Charlottesville is teeming with great ideas and success stories, and we want them to define the narrative. We are not a founding city just because of our history of founding or what happened in the past, but because there is so much active founding taking place that will shape the future,” Beyer said.

The week of Tom Tom features wide ranging talks and competitions that highlight ventures  actively underway, but the Future Forum will launch the week with a forward-­looking light about what these projects mean for the future of the region.

The event is free for the public, but an RSVP is appreciated. Please sign up at­forum/.

Future  Forum Speakers:

Michael Prichard, Founder & CTO, WillowTree Inc. ­­ Michael leads the Charlottesville-­based company’s technology strategy and works closely with clients to develop strategic mobile solutions.  WillowTree was recently ranked #7 Best Workplace  in Technology by Fortune Magazine and #5 on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work for Small-­Medium Businesses. After growing to over 100 team members in Charlottesville, this app design and development agency recently expanded to Durham, NC. They researched dozens of cities, and in the process created an index of traits for startup friendly towns.

Jody Kielbasa, Vice Provost for the Arts, UVA, Director of the Virginia Film Festival—Jody has spearheaded important arts initiatives including the creation of a President’s   Speakers Series for the Arts that has featured Tina Fey and Kevin Spacey. Since becoming Director of the Virginia Film Festival in 2009, Kielbasa has help lead the festival to seven consecutive record-­breaking years in both sales and   attendance.

Mike Signer, Mayor of Charlottesville City Council, lawyer, author—Mike Signer is managing principal of Madison Law & Strategy Group, PLLC, which he founded in 2010, where he practices corporate and regulatory law. He is also a lecturer at UVA, where he teaches in both the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics and the Batten School for Leadership and Public Policy. As Mayor of Charlottesville, Signer has recently formed a

Mayor’s Advisory Council on Innovation and Technology to assemble leaders in the capital, business, university, and policy   spaces.

Hunter Smith, President and Head Brewer, Champion Brewing Company—Having worked in the music and wine industries prior to brewing, Smith founded the brewery in 2012    out of a passion for brewing, beginning on the home stovetop. Champion Brewing has grown from 500 barrels of production in the first year to a projected 10,000 barrels in 2016. Champion was recently awarded a Gold Medal in the Bohemian Pilsner category at the Great American Beer Festival for the ‘Shower Beer’ Czech-­Style Pilsner.

Pam Moran, Superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools—Dr. Moran was recently named Virginia’s Superintendent of the Year at the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS). Albemarle has developed widely recognized interdisciplinary maker­ and project-­based learning, interactive digital learning, comprehensive visual/performing arts, and a network of CTE/STEM mechatronics labs and academies for their 13,000 students.

Pamela Norris is the executive associate dean for research at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science. She is the Frederick Tracy Morse Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and the founder and director of UVA’s Nanoscale Energy Transfer and Aerogel Research laboratories. A native Virginian, Professor Norris completed her undergraduate studies at Old Dominion University and received her Ph.D. from Georgia Tech in 1992. She then joined Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien’s microscale heat transfer research group at the University of California at Berkeley as a visiting scholar and a visiting lecturer. In 1994, Professor Norris joined the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at UVA.  She holds patents for applications of aerogels in areas ranging from biological warfare detection, to lab-on-a-chip, to thermal insulation, along with patents for innovative thermal management techniques for jet-blast deflectors.   She has drawn more than $25 million in research grants to UVA. She served as associate dean of research and graduate programs from 2011 to fall of 2015, when Engineering School Dean Craig Benson named her executive associate dean for research. Her charge is to double over the next seven years the research funds the Engineering School receives from grants and corporate partners.

Brendan Richardson, Cofounder and CEO, PsiKick—An ex­-Silicon Valley VC, Richardson partnered with UVA Engineering professor Dr. Benton Calhoun and Michigan Engineering Professor, Dr. David Wentzloff to launch this pioneering wireless, self-­powered systems company based on Calhoun’s and Wentzloff’s groundbreaking research. PsiKick seeks to make computing battery­-free and unlock the future of the Internet of Things. PsiKick just completed a $17M Series B with New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Osage University Partners.


The Future Forum is free, but an RSVP is appreciated. Sign up now at­forum/.


The 5th Annual Founders Festival is a week of concerts, talks, competitions and public art that connect hundreds of bands, startups, and visionaries, this April 11­17 in Charlottesville, Va. Tom Tom is a nonprofit that hosts dozens of events each year to celebrate and empower the founders    of creative, civic, and entrepreneurial ventures. In 2015, Tom Tom had attendance of over 26,200, showcased over 400 community organizations, and had an economic impact of $1.5M on the community of Charlottesville.


Research and entrepreneurship at the UVA School of Engineering and Applied Science is behind much of the innovation that recently led the National Venture Capital Association to name Charlottesville as the fastest­growing venture capital ecosystem in the United States. Founded in 1836, the UVA School of Engineering is the third-­oldest engineering school in a U.S. public university, and consistently ranks among the top engineering programs in the country. UVA Engineering remains focused on both educating the next generation of engineering leaders and

interdisciplinary research that tackles society’s most pressing challenges. Learn more at


The Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR) is responsible for the integration and enhancement of research activities across UVA’s eleven schools and multiple research centers. VPR leads university­wide strategic growth activities, including multidisciplinary groups in environmental sustainability, innovation, energy systems, and biosciences. VPR also coordinates the various University units that comprise the research infrastructure, including the acquisition   of research funding, the planning and development of academic research space, research commercialization, the incubation of new companies and recruiting of corporate research partners to local research parks, and public   outreach.


Piedmont Council for the Arts is a catalyst for collaboration among artists, arts organizations, and audiences in alliance with business and government entities to stimulate creative expression, promote cultural tourism, and advance the effective management of Central Virginia’s diverse cultural heritage.


As the region’s technology council, the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council – CBIC – promotes innovation and entrepreneurship and supports growth and success among the Charlottesville region’s technology-­focused organizations. CBIC provides a forum for ideas and a collective voice on behalf of the technology sector. For more information, please visit our website  at


Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development, a not-­for-­profit public/private partnership, is the regional economic development organization for Charlottesville and the Counties of Albemarle, Culpeper, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson and Orange. The Partnership’s mission is to expand investment in a strategic, responsible and sustainable manner  to provide career ladder jobs for the region’s workforce.


The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to representing private  enterprise, promoting business and enhancing the quality of life in our greater Charlottesville communities. The Chamber’s more than 1,200 member and affiliate member enterprises employ more than 45,000 people in our community, representing an estimated total payroll of more than $1.75 billion a year.


The Paramount Theater Ting

Charlottesville Tomorrow Wells Fargo

Woods Rogers, PLC New Belgium Brewing