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July 23, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Three Tennessee organizations win Regional Innovation Strategies grants from EDA

Launch Tennessee announced yesterday that it will be able to expand its mentor network support to two additional industry sectors after winning a Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) “i6 Challenge” grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA).

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that 44 organizations from 28 states and two territories were recipients of one of two RIS grants totaling $23 million to create and expand high-growth entrepreneurship and increase access to capital for communities across America. The 2019 awardees will leverage an additional $26 million in matching funds from a variety of private and public sector sources.

Yesterday’s announcement in Washington, DC was good news not only for Launch Tennessee, but also for two Memphis-based organizations – AgLaunch and Epicenter. The former also won an “i6 Challenge” grant while the latter was a recipient of a “Seed Fund Support” grant.

In a blog post, Launch Tennessee said the federal monies will allow the statewide organization to add two key business sectors in the state – automotive and agriculture – to its existing mentor programs that currently serves start-ups in the life science and advanced energy sectors. The other two Tennessee recipients have distinct initiatives to expand their impact.

  • Epicenter, through Vibrant Memphis Inc., will support the Memphis Region Capital Capacity project that encapsulates the operations of two pools of de-risked capital – Formation Fund and Co-Investment Fund – deployed in support of early stage entrepreneurs. In addition to direct fund management, Epicenter will use venture capital partners and industry leaders to recruit innovative companies along Memphis’ regional industry clusters as defined by the 2018 Mass Economics Target Industries Study. (Click here for more information.)
  • Within the Mid-South Delta Agricultural Innovation Cluster, AgLaunch will create AgLaunch i6, a farm-centric commercial validation program for agricultural technology start-ups as well as expand current AgLaunch365 programming and additional capacity within the AgLaunch Farmer Network. (Click here for more information.)


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