U.S. Department of Commerce invests more than $650,000 to support entrepreneurship efforts in Birmingham

UAB and Innovation Depot are among the 42 organizations from 28 states that received more than $17 million to create and expand cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and early-stage seed capital funds.
Written by: Katherine Shonesy
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kathy nugent 2017Kathy Nugent, Ph.D.The U.S. Department of Commerce announced this week that the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Innovation Depot have been awarded grants of $498,216 and $170,925, respectively, to create and expand cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and to create early-stage seed capital funds through the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program.

“The Trump administration is committed to strengthening U.S. production and exports, which are essential to our nation’s economic growth,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These projects will enable entrepreneurs in communities across the United States to start new businesses, manufacture innovative products and export them throughout the world — increasing America’s global competitiveness.”

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, leads the Regional Innovation Strategies program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. The program is authorized through the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, and has received dedicated appropriations since FY 2014.

Some 42 organizations — including nonprofits, institutions of higher education and entrepreneurship-focused organizations from 28 states — received more than $17 million to create and expand cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and early-stage seed capital funds through RIS.

devon laney innovation depotDevon LaneyThis fourth cohort of Regional Innovation Strategies awardees expands the RIS portfolio to eight new states and continues to build vibrant regional entrepreneurial economies. The awardees were selected from a pool of more than 217 applicants.

The $498,216 EDA investment in UAB will fund the creation of a proof-of-concept incubator that will provide the facilities, training opportunities, guidance and funding access necessary for students, faculty and staff to launch and nurture startup companies that will create jobs and enhance regional economic health. In seven years, UAB expects to support the formation of 35 new companies, of which 32 would target Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer funding totaling more than $10 million and creating 80 new jobs.

“The i6 Challenge Award will help UAB students, faculty and staff accelerate the transition of discoveries to the marketplace and ultimately facilitate job creation in the region,” said Kathy Nugent, Ph.D., associate vice president and executive director of the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UAB. “UAB’s position as a leading anchor institution is a chief ingredient contributing to the region’s ability to build a flourishing Innovation District. The Birmingham metropolitan area is investing human and financial capital to create an urban core poised for successful innovation and entrepreneurship. This is reflected in partnerships across the community, including Innovate Birmingham, the Regional Workforce Partnership, and The Innovation Depot and its Velocity Accelerator. We look forward to developing the next generation of technology-based companies that will contribute to the economic prosperity of our community.”

With its $170,925 EDA award, Innovation Depot will enhance and expand its Velocity Accelerator Program and fund to enable entrepreneurs in the financial services, health care and technology sectors to scale companies in the region. Innovation Depot expects that, after five years of operation, the program will have supported the creation of 50 companies and 246 jobs.

Innovation Depot President and CEO Devon Laney says the Birmingham community is aligned behind these initiatives, and awards like these illustrate the strong partnership between UAB and Innovation Depot, as well as the shared strategy to grow technology-based economic development locally.

“As one of only 15 recipients of the EDA Seed Fund Support award, Innovation Depot is thrilled to continue building on the success of our Velocity Accelerator Program as a driver of technology-based economic development for the Birmingham region,” Laney said. “With our partners at UAB and throughout the community, Innovation Depot continues to support the growth and expansion of early-stage technology companies that generate significant economic impact for our region.”

To learn more about the Regional Innovation Strategies program and the awardee projects, visit eda.gov and the FAQs.