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

Office of Innovation and
Entrepreneurship (OIE)

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Blacksburg, Virginia

Project Name

CatalyzeVT: Expanding the Innovation Ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Region of Virginia



Award Amount

$499,751 for CatalyzeVT: Expanding the Innovation Ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Region of Virginia

As the Roanoke-Blacksburg metropolitan regions surrounding Virginia Tech restructure, moving from a historic reliance on manufacturing, railroads and agriculture towards higher education, healthcare and technology, the key challenge is how to boost university research commercialization and better support the innovation ecosystem. While the region has access to early stage funds, it lacks resources dedicated to seeking promising technologies, “derisking” them, and putting them on a path to market.

Virginia Tech’s Catalyst Program helps to fill this regional gap. A collaboration of The Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, and the Office of Economic Development, Catalyst fosters collaboration between innovators and entrepreneurs to:

  • Address challenges in translating university research to the private sector;
  • Deliver proof of concept and commercialization services;
  • Strengthen connections between Virginia Tech and the Roanoke-Blacksburg innovation ecosystem; and
  • Secure investment and job creation in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.

The Catalyst Community is comprised of:

  • Catalyst Students - inventive undergraduates from all colleges of the university connecting with next-generation concepts.
  • Catalyst Faculty - offering expertise in their field, knowledge of research campus-wide, with support from graduate students.
  • Catalyst Companies - industry affiliates who will offer technical challenges and business opportunities.

A regional advisory board made of university, community, and industry partners support the Catalyst Community. Members include:

  • Firms from sectors representative of the region;
  • Partners including: the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, Center for Innovative Technology, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, New River Valley Regional Commission, Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, and New River Valley Economic Development Alliance;
  • New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Board to connect with underserved populations;
  • VT Intellectual Properties; and
  • VTKnowledgeWorks providing business launch services.

The Catalyst Program at Virginia Tech provides opportunities for stakeholders to improve on their own processes and build on existing innovation assets. Catalyst works to strengthen the innovation ecosystem of the region, bringing with it new jobs and investment.