Applications are Open!

Applications are now being accepted for the 2024 PYA Ballard Innovation Award. The application deadline is March 15, 2024. The top five finalists will be invited to a live pitch competition on April 10th, during which the winners will be selected. 


February 21: Applications Open
March 15: Application Deadline
March 22: Finalists for the Pitch Competition Notified
April 10: Pitch Competition and Reception

The 2024 Judges Panel 


The Award

The Ballard Innovation Award is the largest gift of cash and in-kind services available to East Tennessee entrepreneurs and startups. It is a reflection of PYA’s commitment to the region. 


PYA Ballard Innovation Award1st Place

The first-place winner of the PYA Ballard Innovation Award will receive:

  • $50,000 package of capital and in-kind services:
    • $10,000 of Monetary Capital
    • $ 2,500 of In-Kind Tax Advisory Support
    • $ 7,500 of In-Kind Outsourced Accounting
    • $10,000 of In-Kind Marketing Support
    • $10,000 of In-Kind Strategy Support
    • $10,000 of In-Kind Video Development
  • Marketing and promotional awareness through earned media
  • Physical award for presentation and marketing purposes

2nd Place

  • $10,000 of In-Kind Strategy Support
  • Mention in marketing/media collateral

3rd Place

  • $5,000 of In-Kind Strategy Support
  • Mention in marketing/media collateral

About Tom Ballard

Tom Ballard

The PYA Ballard Innovation Award honors Tom Ballard, PYA’s Chief Alliance Officer and a well-respected member of the East Tennessee entrepreneurial community. An East Tennessee native, Tom spent more than four decades building relationships for the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory throughout the region, state, and nation before joining PYA in 2012. During both careers, Ballard led initiatives to build multi-organizational alliances focusing on statewide telecommunications networking, automotive research, and land use planning. Ballard is also the Editor and Publisher of, a daily electronic newsletter focused on technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.


“As we once again open the floor for entries for the Ballard Innovation Award, it is our goal to highlight and help East Tennessee entrepreneurs with supportive strategies that further their entrepreneurial efforts. This award allows us to connect with those innovators to help them grow and thrive as an established part of our community.”
– Marty Brown, President, and CEO of PYA.


The Ballard Innovation Award competition is open to any early-stage company in the East Tennessee area that has established a “proof of concept” with accompanying revenue. Applicants must present a business plan to optimize existing business operations by reducing costs, increasing revenues, and/or gaining new efficiencies while demonstrating clear innovations to improve the business and empower the consumer.

Applicant qualifications include a company that:

  • Is located in the geographic East Tennessee area (33 counties as defined by the state of TN) – metro areas include Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Tri-Cities;
  • Has established a “proof of concept” with accompanying revenue (as outlined);
  • Has secured financial resources of a minimum of $200,000 total;
  • Has a business plan to optimize existing business operations by reducing costs, increasing revenues, and/or gaining new efficiencies;
  • Can demonstrate clear innovations that will improve the business;
  • Has a focus on empowering the consumer to become more informed and engaged.


Award winners will be decided by a distinguished panel of area business leaders and entrepreneurial mentors. The 2023 panel includes Joan Bienvenue, Executive Director and Vice Provost, University of Tennessee – Oak Ridge Innovation Institute; Gabe Bolas, President and CEO, KUB; Kathryn Eggleston, Vice President, H.T. Hackney; Tanika Harper, Founder and CEO, Shora Foundation; and Raj Patel, Director, Atlas Physical Therapy. 

2023 PYA Ballard Innovation Award Judges

Previous Winners

PYA's Ballard Innovation Award Winners


iO Urology was the winner of the 2023 PYA Ballard Innovation Award, with Captis Aire as 1st runner-up and Carbon Rivers as 2nd runner-up. 

The 2023 PYA Ballard Innovation Award Pitch Competition | 3/21/23


PrepWizard, was the winner of the 2022 PYA Ballard Innovation Award, with Winter Innovations as 1st runner up and RegScale as 2nd runner-up. 


PrepWizard, produced these videos as part of their award: 


RegScale produced this video as part of their award: 


In its inaugural year, the Ballard Innovation Award first prize was presented to 490 BioTech. The company has developed bioluminescent technologies that enable new drugs to move more quickly through the pharmaceutical testing process. Eonix, LLC, a battery company, and Ascend Manufacturing, which works in 3D printing technology, placed second and third, respectively.

The video below was produced by PYA as part of the award.



For more information about the PYA Ballard Innovation Award, please contact Larsen Jay at (800) 270-9629.