The University of North Dakota Center for Innovation is among the first 26 recipients of the national 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program grants, and has received $250,000 under the “Cluster Grant for Seed Capital Funds” project from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA).
“This award from EDA confirms that our entrepreneur center is among the nation’s leaders in fostering entrepreneurship and angel capital networks,” said Bruce Gjovig, director and entrepreneur coach at the Center for Innovation.“ This grant will expand and enhance our pioneering work helping entrepreneurs, students and angel investors,” he added, “especially helping strengthen our angel funds network throughout the state which is critical to the entrepreneur ecosystem.”
Of the more than 240 applications that EDA received for RIS Program funds, only 26 awards were made nationwide to advance innovation and capacity-building through three different funding opportunities totaling $15 million. This includes $2 million in nine cluster grants for seed capital funds, i6 Challenge grants totaling $8 million, and another $5 million in science and research park development grants.
North Dakotans historically have had few options for equity capital as is true with other rural states. However, as the state’s economy has begun to transition to innovative technology sectors such as Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), bioscience, and data warehousing, the Center for Innovation has focused on developing private equity funds to support those innovation sectors.
In order to support emerging entrepreneurs in these technology clusters, the Center will use EDA’s $250,000 investment over two years plus one-to-one match, to coordinate with existing angel funds and establish new angel funds to provide entrepreneurs better access to private equity capital. The match funds come from the UND Center for Innovation provided by donations from successful entrepreneurs.
“North Dakota is a rapidly growing state, and it’s important that we facilitate private investments to help our economy continue to grow,” U.S. Sen. John Hoeven said. “This EDA funding will lay the groundwork we need to extend the angel fund network statewide, which will encourage investment and help businesses in our state succeed.”
Early access to capital is crucial for startups but can be difficult to obtain outside traditional startup hubs. The grant allows the Center to provide angel fund development assistance to support the feasibility, planning, formation or launch of new angel capital funds, which will help improve access to capital for entrepreneurs across the region. American innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit along with private investment has long provided a foundation for our strong economy. This is no less true in rural regions like North Dakota.
“As America’s Innovation Agency, the Commerce Department has a key role to play in supporting the innovators and job creators of tomorrow,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “We want to ensure that all entrepreneurs have access to the tools they need to move their ideas 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.”
“We are very grateful to the U.S. Economic Development Administration for recognizing our good work and our deep commitment to innovation, entrepreneurship and access to entrepreneur capital,” Gjovig said. “This grant allows us to support innovators and entrepreneurs in order to scale up their ventures by improving and expanding access to capital, which aligns perfectly with our growing entrepreneur ecosystem.”
Cluster Grants for Seed Capital Funds
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.
The nine grantees under the U.S. Cluster Grant for Seed Capital Funds awards for this round of RIS are:
- Albany Medical College, Albany, N.Y.
$124,910 for the Biomedical Acceleration & Commercialization Center at Albany Medical College (BACC)SEED Fund
- Milwaukee Water Council, Inc., Milwaukee
$71,625 for the Wisconsin Water Cluster Seed Capital Fund Grant
- Clean Energy Trust, Chicago
$250,000 for the Clean Energy Prize Fund
- Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Phoenix, Ariz.
$221,467 for the Greater Phoenix Seed Fund Feasibility Study
- Quatere, Salt Lake City, Utah
$250,000 for the creation and implementation of Next Generation Early Stage Umbrella Fund
- Regional Development Corporation, Espanola, N.M.
$248,946 for the Venture Acceleration Fund Enhancement Project NM
- Technology 2020, Oak Ridge, Tenn.
$250,000 for TennesSeed
- University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla.
$249,933 for the StarterCorps Seed Fund
- UND Center for Innovation, Grand Forks
$250,000 for the Cluster Grants for Seed Funds in North Dakota
UND Center for Innovation:
The UND Center for Innovation was started in 1984 and was among the first entrepreneur outreach centers in the nation. In 1996, the Center opened the first tech incubator in the Upper Great Plains, and the Center for Innovation Foundation built the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center in 2005.
The UND Center for Innovation is known as one of the premier venture development organizations in the United States, profiled as one of just six venture development organizations for best practices nationwide by SSTI Regional Innovation Acceleration Network, The Center has received 15 national and international awards for excellence in entrepreneurship and innovation by such entities as NBIA, SSTI, EDA and SBA. The Center’s mission is to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and access to entrepreneur capital as well as provide vital entrepreneur infrastructure such as the Ina May Rude Entrepreneur Center and the Skalicky Tech Incubator. The Center is a “Soft Landing International Incubator,” one of the first six so designated in 2006, and one of just 27 incubators worldwide designated for being well suited for international entrepreneurs.
U.S. Economic Development Administration:
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.
Director & Entrepreneur Coach
UND Center for Innovation
David L. Dodds
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