Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

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October 18, 2023 | Tom Ballard

U News | Gifts and grants support entrepreneurship

Some involve federal agencies while others come from private donors and foundations.

From West Virginia University:

West Virginia University is renewing efforts to promote prosperity in the Mountain State with a new statewide competition that challenges promising entrepreneurs and empowers them to succeed.

The Encova Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the John Chambers College of Business and Economics is launching IgniteWV with $200,000 in grant support from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. The program, which evolved from the West Virginia Business Plan Competitions hosted previously by WVU, will strive to provide budding entrepreneurs with the education, skills, contacts and motivation necessary to create viable start-up companies.

The competition features two tracks — one for Main Street, community-oriented businesses that need technical assistance funding, and another for technology and innovation-focused businesses that are seeking investment. The competition cycle begins each fall, with initial entries due in January. A select group of business professionals will review 90-second pitch videos and any supplemental materials provided to choose the top five entries in each track.

From the University of Miami:

Two brothers, both alumni of the University who have requested to remain anonymous, have pledged to match, 2 to 1, all gifts to support USTAAR (University Student Accelerator Program), up to $1 million.

As a result, students or teams from the College of Engineering, Miller School of Medicine, Miami Herbert Business School, School of Law, and other areas across the University of Miami will be able to nurture new ideas from inception to implementation.

“The USTAAR program will be truly transformative for student entrepreneurship, providing fundamental training, mentorship, and financial support for idea development and commercialization, with a goal to creating ’Canes-led startups that bring products to the market,” said Suhrud Rajguru, Director of USTAAR, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Otolaryngology, and Assistant Vice Provost for Research Workforce Development. “The program is open to all students and trainees at the University. The goal is for these student-led start-ups to enhance socio-economic development in South Florida and beyond.”

From the University of Houston:

A generous $5 million gift from the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation has made possible the creation of the Duddlesten Free Enterprise Institute, which has a stated mission to expand entrepreneurship training and resources to all students at the University of Houston (UH).

It will operate in association with Bauer College’s Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship which was established more than two decades ago within Bauer College. In 2022, it earned its seventh #1 ranking among undergraduate entrepreneurship programs across the country.

But interest in entrepreneurship expands well beyond the Wolff Center — nearly 3,800 UH undergraduate students take at least one entrepreneurship course across 90 majors.

“By expanding the possibility of entrepreneurship to every college and department, the Duddlesten Institute will help open doors of opportunity to a wider scope of specialties. Not only will that help more people along the journey to success, it also will help diversify and build strength within our economy for generations that follow,” said Karen Duddlesten, President of the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation.

From Oklahoma State University:

Thanks to a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s University Center program, The Innovation Foundation and its Cowboy Innovation Accelerator program will be able to provide commercialization expertise to northeastern Oklahoma. The organization was formerly known as the Oklahoma State University (OSU) Research Foundation.

Specifically, the funding will be used to provide commercial grant assistance to start-up companies aligned with the state’s three key industry sectors — energy, aerospace and autonomous systems, and biotechnology and life sciences.

 “The Innovation Foundation at OSU focuses on maximizing applied research and the commercialization of innovation. The return allows for further investment in research and development at OSU and across our state,” said Elizabeth Pollard, Executive Director of The Innovation Foundation. “This new award will allow The Innovation Foundation and its Cowboy Innovation Accelerator the ability to expand its commercial grant assistance to innovation-based startup companies in the northeastern region of Oklahoma.” 

From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

The University will partner with private company Flock Safety to install license plate readers on campus, part of a larger effort to improve campus surveillance systems. That’s according to this article in The Daily Tar Heel, the more than century-old student newspaper. The action follows the August 28 shooting death of an Associate Professor by a graduate student at the institution.

From the New Jersey Institute of Technology:

The school has secured a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to translate science and engineering discoveries into market-ready technologies that will improve quality of life in areas ranging from health care to sustainable energy and data privacy.

Awarded by NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships, the grant will accelerate the development of promising prototypes and enable market validation and other commercialization activities. It will also strengthen the university’s entrepreneurial culture by funding and organizing training workshops in technology translation for undergraduates, Ph.D. students, post-doctoral researchers and faculty, through the newly created Center for Translational Research.

Over the next four years, the new NSF grant will supply seed funding of $50,000 to $100,000 per project to up to 10 Technology Innovation Translation Acceleration (TITA) program researchers. It will provide, for example, backing to help developers move past the initial proof of concept, including determining interest and acceptance by potential users, to identify purchasers of the technology, such as clinicians, municipalities, or businesses.


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