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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce
Funding Opportunities Background

Office of Innovation and
Entrepreneurship (OIE)

Telluride Foundation


Telluride, Colorado

Project Name

Southwest Innovation Corridor, i6 Challenge



Award Amount

$499,720 for Southwest Innovation Corridor

The Telluride Foundation, a 501(c)(3) community foundation, will use grant funding to develop and expand the Southwest Innovation Corridor (SWIC), located in southwest Colorado and serving eight rural counties. In the region, agricultural and resource extraction jobs are continuing to be displaced, causing continued distress and out-migration. Several communities have been overly reliant on the volatile tourism and home construction industries. The region covers 10,418 sq. miles, approximately the size of Massachusetts, and has lower per capita income and higher unemployment rates than the rest of the state. SWIC will also outreach to Native Americans through a Small Business Development Center and Fort Lewis College (Native American students comprise 38% of physics and engineering majors).

The Telluride Foundation, in partnership with the Telluride Venture Accelerator, Telluride Venture Fund, Telluride Angels Network, Southwest Colorado Accelerator Program for Entrepreneurship, Fort Lewis College, and SBDCs, will develop and expand the Southwest Innovation Corridor (SWIC). SWIC is a resource corridor to support and attract entrepreneurs, enabling them to test business models, fund initial prototyping, execute intellectual property protection and market research, conduct pilot studies, and access world-class mentors and investor networks. SWIC is organized into four categories:

  1. Identify and Cultivate Seeds of Innovation, including Fort Lewis College Proof of Concept Center, internships, industry cluster roundtables, regional meet-ups.
  2. Entrepreneurship, including mentor networks and accelerator/incubator programs.
  3. Regional Connectivity, including web platforms connecting entrepreneurs/businesses to resources and an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Playbook and workshop for rural/resort communities.
  4. Commercialization of Research, including investor cultivation, SWIC proof of concept fund, Telluride Venture Fund, and investor events.

SWIC will connect disburse communities through common branding, universal access to resources, collaboration, meet-ups, building relationships, and a regional partners governance group. By creating an entrepreneurial corridor, attracting more resources and increased and consistent collaboration, eight rural counties will benefit economically, including increasing local investment, jobs, and new start-up businesses and entrepreneurs.