U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $15 Million in Entrepreneurs Across the Nation to Move Ideas to Market, Promote American Innovation

The WERX Foundation Receives $345,895 to Create Four Innovation/Maker Spaces in Collin County

MCKINNEY, TEXAS - McKinney’s WERX Foundation, Inc. (www.mckinneywerx.com)  has been awarded $345,895 from the U.S. Department of Commerce to fund a collaborative project with Collin College (www.collin.edu) to implement four innovation/maker spaces for Collin County.  The WERX Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit with the mission to foster innovation and build, grow and support small businesses in McKinney. 

These Collin County collaboration and maker spaces will provide collaborative space, software, hardware and curriculum to support the phases of the innovation process.  The space at The WERX will support emerging technology while three spaces at Collin College will support manufacturing, healthcare and media.  The goal of the three-year project is to build on Collin County’s strong existing industry clusters, strong growth, business friendly environment, well-educated workforce and strong quality of life to foster more rapid commercialization of technology, technology workforce growth and technology small business growth.   

The $345,895 grant for The WERX Foundation will be matched by cash and in-kind support from The McKinney Ecomonic Development Corporation, Collin College and The Cotton Mill Partners. 

“The WERX Foundation is honored to be chosen as one of the RIS I6 Challenge grant recipients in this year’s round of funding.  We look forward to partnering with Collin College to take McKinney and Collin County to the next level of innovation,” said Christine Smith, WERX Foundation Executive Director.   

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced yesterday that 35 organizations — including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations — from 19 states will receive nearly $15 million to create and expand cluster-focused, proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and early-stage seed capital funds through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.

The diverse group of awardees, selected from a pool of more than 215 applicants, reach urban and rural areas across the United States, including the program’s first investments in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the South; a women-focused, early-stage capital fund in Texas; a Native American-centered, proof-of-concept program in Oklahoma; and urban innovation hubs honing in on fashion technology (New York) and social innovation (Louisiana). Additionally, six awards are being made in EDA’s Investing in Manufacturing Community Partnership regions.

“The RIS program advances innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country by addressing two essential core components that entrepreneurs need to take their ideas to market: programmatic support and access to capital,” said Secretary Pritzker. “As America’s Innovation Agency, the Commerce Department has a key role to play in supporting the visionaries and job creators of tomorrow. Congratulations to today’s awardees who will make U.S. communities, businesses, and the workforce more globally competitive.”

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), 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 received a dedicated appropriation for the first time in FY2014.

“The 2016 RIS grantees will reach a variety of communities and help entrepreneurs gain the edge they need to succeed,” said Jay Williams, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “The diversity in programs and regional representation proves that innovation and entrepreneurship are igniting all corners of the country and is a recognized tool for economic growth and resilience.”

The RIS grants, broken into two categories — the i6 Challenge and the Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grants were awarded to:

Seed Fund Support Investments

§  CalCEF Ventures, California Clean Energy Fund, San Francisco, Calif. – $250,000 

§  Investor’s Circle, Colorado Seed-Stage Impact Fund, Durham, N.C. $250,000

§  Launch New York, Mentorship-Driven Seed Fund, Buffalo, N.Y. – $245,460

§  Research Park Corporation, Louisiana Deal Flow Accelerator, Baton Rouge, La. $250,000

§  Propeller Social Impact Equity Fund, New Orleans, La. $250,000

§  Telluride Foundation, Telluride, Colo. $150,000

§  University of South Florida, Seed Tampa Bay, Tampa, FL - $150,000

§  University of Texas, Gender Lens Impact Fund, Austin, Texas $250,000

i6 Challenge Investments

§  AZ Board of Regents, RISN Incubator, Tempe, Ariz. - $500,000

§  Cal State LA University Auxiliary Services, LABioStart Boot Camp, Los Angeles, Calif. - $499,087

§  California State University Fresno Foundation, Central Valley Regional Energy Innovation Accelerator, Fresno, Calif. - $500,000

§  Clark Atlanta University, Clark Russell Entrepreneurship and Technology Ecosystem (CREATE), Atlanta, Ga. - $432,335 

§  Composite Technology Recycling Center, Recycled Carbon Fiber Innovation Ecosystem Accelerator, Port Angeles, Wash. - $500,000

§  East Carolina University, Proof-of-Concept Project, Greenville, N.C. - $498,443

§  First Flight Venture Center, Hanger6, Durham, N.C. - $441,000

§  i2E Inc, Venture Assessment Program, Oklahoma City, Okla. - $199,749

§  Idea Foundry, Advance Life Sciences Commercialization Project, Pittsburgh, Pa. - $500,000

§  Lorain County Community College, Northeast Ohio Regional Acceleration in Digital Innovation (NEO ReADI), Elyria, Ohio - $499,999

§  Louisiana State University and A&M College, Louisiana State University Industrial Innovation Center (LSU-IIC), Baton Rouge, La. - $498,624 

§  Metro North Regional Employment Board, Form to Factory Advanced Manufacturing Project, Cambridge, Mass. - $500,000

§  mHUB, Catalyze Chicago, Chicago, Ill. - $500,000 

§  Mohawk Valley Community College, Upstate Innovation Accelerator, Utica, N.Y. - $499,500

§  Pratt Institute, Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, Brooklyn, N.Y. - $486,680

§  Regents of the University of California, Riverside Proof of Concept Center, Riverside, Calif. - $499,950

§  Research Foundation for the State University of New York, Regional SBIR/STTR Mentorship Program, Stony Brook, N.Y. - $500,000

§  Rutgers University, Ecolgnite: Clean Energy Proof of Concept Center and Accelerator Program, Piscataway, N.J. - $439,190

§  Southern Research Institute, Alliance for Innovative Medical Technology Proof of Concept Center, Birmingham, Ala. - $500,000 

§  StartingBlock Madison, Fitchburg, Wis. - $471,875

§  University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., New Materials Innovation Center, Athens, Ga.- $499,635

§  University of Pittsburgh, Manufacturing Accelerator Program, Pittsburgh, Pa. - $500,000

§  University of Tennessee Health Science Center, The UTHSC Proof of Concept Center, Memphis, Tenn. - $499,885 

§  University of Texas at Austin, Texas Smart Water Innovation Cluster, Austin, Texas - $500,000

§  University of Texas at San Antonio, The South-Texas Innovation Partnership Program (S-TIPP), San Antonio, Texas - $499,997

§  University of Toledo, The University of Toledo Rocket Fuel Fund, Toledo, Ohio - $500,000

§  WERX Foundation, McKinney, Texas - $345,895

Earlier this year, EDA released the 2016 Regional Innovation Strategies Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) and began accepting applications. The application period was opened for 60 days. Under the FFO, $13 million was allocated for i6 Challenge grants and $2 million was made available for SFS grants. To learn more about the Regional Innovation Strategies program and the awardee projects, visit eda.gov and the FAQs.   

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