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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce


Press Release

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces $1.2 Million Investment for Eight States to Strengthen Innovation & Economic Growth Initiatives

Universities in AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, and TN Awarded Federal Funding

WASHINGTON - U.S. Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank today announced $1.2 million in Economic Development Administration (EDA) grants to universities in eight states as part of the University Center Economic Development Program, a partnership to leverage university assets to promote American innovation and strengthen regional economic ecosystems.

"These $1.2 million EDA investments in University Centers nationwide are examples of the Obama administration's commitment to investing in higher education so that our students have access to the skills they need for 21st century jobs," said Acting Secretary Blank. "The eight grants announced today will help American universities support the entrepreneurship and job creation that are vital to economic growth in each of these regions."

EDA-funded University Centers conduct applied research, provide technical assistance to public and private-sector organizations, and conduct other activities with the goal of enhancing regional economic development. They offer a full range of services tailored appropriately to each region's needs and the institution's strengths. University Center business solutions include basic and applied research, market research, feasibility studies, product development, strategic and financial planning, seminars and training, and management consultations. These services enhance business productivity, streamline operations, increase quality, and cut costs.

The grants, which will give each institution $129,000, include:

  • Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
  • Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Atlanta, Georgia
  • University of Kentucky Research Foundation, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Mississippi State University, Starkville, Mississippi
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina
  • University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina
  • University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee

Following is more information about each grantee:

Auburn University: The Auburn Technical Assistance Center at Auburn University leverages the resources of Auburn University to help foster economic development, innovation, and process improvement with Alabama businesses and organizations. It also supports Auburn University's Commercialization Initiative to develop Auburn's innovation ecosystem and the state's efforts to align external economic development partners.

University of Florida: University of Florida researchers disclose more than a third of the state's new inventions (approximately 300 annually), and generate the majority of all university startups in the state. The university's Tech Connect program accelerates regional and statewide economic growth by assisting such new technology-based companies to commercialize their inventions in medicine, biotechnology, engineering, health, information systems, and other fields.

Georgia Tech: The Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) at Georgia Tech collaborates with partners throughout the state. It has a unique asset in its regional project managers, who represent EI2 and Georgia Tech to all of the state's 159 counties. EI2's University Center program will focus on supporting innovation-based ecosystems and helping devise strategic economic development strategies for communities throughout Georgia.

The University of Kentucky: The Von Allmen Center at the University of Kentucky has been a partner of the University Center program since 2006. It uses commercialization specialists, sometimes referred to as "research harvesters," to work with university faculty, clinicians, and students to identify new commercialization opportunities. A key part of their effort is to provide education on the university's intellectual property policies, disclosure processes, and commercialization support services.

Mississippi State University: The Technology Resource Institute (TRI) University Center at Mississippi State University will craft strategic partnerships and leverage the university's extensive network of research and outreach programs to support business expansion within the state's innovation clusters, advance high-growth entrepreneurship, and facilitate technology commercialization efforts.

Western Carolina University: Western Carolina University, through its Kimmel School's Center for Rapid Product Realization, will focus its University Center on supporting regional commercialization of products and processes and developing highly skilled, innovative engineering and business professionals for the region, through open-ended industry sponsored faculty/student projects.

The University of Tennessee: The University of Tennessee's University Center will integrate the research and technology assets of the university system to enhance regional innovation ecosystems and economic growth across Tennessee. The center will focus its efforts on regional commercialization, high-growth entrepreneurship, and innovation and business expansion in regional innovation clusters.

University of South Carolina: The University of South Carolina's University Center will build upon the success of its 2009 project, the Innovista Innovation Center, which was created to provide technical assistance to promising technology startups in the mid-state region. The new grant will build on the success of that effort, providing technology-based startups with critical new services that will help them succeed in their commercialization efforts.

Fayetteville State University: The primary focus of Fayetteville State University's University Center will be to accelerate business expansion in regional innovation clusters by proactively linking existing firms with the knowledge, resources, and technical assistance that will enable them to effectively introduce new products, win new contracts, improve efficiency, and create high paying jobs. There will be a particular focus on high-innovation sectors, such as regional defense, energy and agriculture.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The University Center's targeted initiatives will close gaps in the current economic ecosystem by cultivating a thriving growth environment for entrepreneurs and businesses in the 18 Eastern Plains counties of North Carolina. The center's projects will focus on fueling high-growth entrepreneurs, helping communities grow and retain business, facilitating strategic regional economic development, and identifying potential resources for sustained economic development in the region.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
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.