U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced that the TechCelerator@State College is among the first of 26 recipients of the 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies program grants.
Penn State received a $500,000 i6/Cluster Grant for Seed Capital Funds to further develop the TechCelerator@State College, a pre-accelerator that is specifically designed to allow technologists who have not identified themselves as future business owners to explore entrepreneurship and commercialization pathways for technologies and arrive at educated go/no-go decisions. This program will not only deliver services that are expected to result in $30 million in economic benefits, but will also catalyze a replicable, rural innovation strategy to foster an entrepreneurial culture and create economic growth along the way.
“The TechCelerator Program, which has already produced dozens of success stories, provides an array of pre-launch business and market research services – or Boot Camps – designed to assist University researchers, grad students and the local tech-entrepreneurs in converting their ideas into business realities. Our goal was to stimulate and accelerate a sustainable, entrepreneurial pipeline and the model works,” said Stephen Brawley, president and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Don McCandless, the TechCelerator’s program director commented, “We are proud that our efforts, which are the result of a partnership among several local entrepreneurial and business support programs including Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Penn State’s Office of Technology Management, Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), Centre County’s Chamber of Business and Industry, the Centre County Industrial Development Corp. and Innovation Park at Penn State have been acknowledge by the EDA.”
The Regional Innovation Strategies program, which is being run by the Department’s Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is a new initiative designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country through three different types of grants: i6 Challenge grants, Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds, and Science and Research Park Development Grants.
“As America’s ‘Innovation Agency,’ the Commerce Department has a key role to play in supporting the innovators and job creators of tomorrow,” said Pritzker. “We want to ensure that all entrepreneurs have access to the tools they need to move their ideas and inventions from idea to market. The Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition is designed to advance this mission across the United States, strengthening our economy and our global competitiveness.”
The i6 Challenge, was launched in 2010 as part of the Startup America Initiative, and is now in its fourth iteration. I6 is a national competition that makes small, targeted, high-impact investments to support startup creation, innovation and commercialization. Now that the i6 Challenge is included in the new Regional Innovation Strategies Program, the funding will support more than just Proof-of-Concept Centers. Investments will also go toward the expansion of existing centers and in later-stage Commercialization Centers, which help innovators fine tune and scale their innovations to bring new products and services to the market. The total amount of funding for the i6 Challenge under RIS is nearly $8 million.
Heather Fennessey, director of Penn State’s SBDC, commented, “This region is fortunate to have a variety of assets, most notably in intellectual property creation from the cutting edge research conducted at the University. Penn State’s research expenditures have increased by nearly $500 million in the past 20 years. The opportunity for our potential economic growth, which can result from this increase in University-based research, is exciting.”
Early access to capital is crucial for startups, but can be difficult to obtain outside traditional startup hubs. Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds provide technical assistance funding to support the feasibility, planning, formation or launch of cluster-based seed capital funds, which will help improve access to capital for entrepreneurs across the United States. The total amount of funding for the U.S. Cluster Grant for Seed Capital Funds under RIS is nearly $2 million.