The University of Iowa and Iowa State University will split a $100,000 grant awarded to their respective entrepreneurial centers by The Ewing Marion Foundation in an effort to bolster each school’s entrepreneurial training and outreach capabilities.
The grant is a part of the Kauffman Foundation’s Heartland Challenge, which is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas overcome business challenges specific to the Midwest.
Judi Eyles, director of ISU’s Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship, said the Kauffman Foundation’s Heartland Challenge awards grants on behalf of one of three challenges, including the effort to commercialize new technology.
The director said the grant will help support people who want to use university-developed technology as the foundation for a startup business.
“That’s one way to get people to say, hey, does my technology have a viable opportunity either as a licensed technology or to create a business?” Eyles said. “Lynn Allendorf and I and our teams, we’re all focused on entrepreneurial development based on university technology.”
Lynn Allendorf, Eyles’ counterpart at the UI entrepreneurial center, said there are not as many federal grant applications for midwestern states compared to other areas of the country, and that the Kauffman Foundation says one of their primary missions is to increase those applications.
Allendorf said these types of grants help find commercial uses for new technology.
“If you think about technology commercialization throughout the country, Midwest states and certainly Iowa struggle with less capital than other states,” she said. “Fewer venture capitalists, fewer angel investors; it makes it a little bit more difficult to move projects forward… so this is just one way where we can help faculty members and help small businesses in Iowa and the Midwest region be able to access federal funding.”
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Allendorf said she and a colleague from Iowa State are scheduling meetings with other Midwestern universities to get input on how to best recruit and train faculty members for grant opportunities like this one.
“Will we do a train-the-trainer program where we maybe select 10 other universities and train one person at each university to run a training program locally, or will by next spring things open up enough that we could run one or two training programs in a central location maybe in Iowa, maybe elsewhere in the Midwest,” Allendorf said.
She went on to say investment such programs will receive be where the majority of the Kauffman grant will go.
David Hensley, executive director of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, said the organization was happy to partner with ISU to help promote industry use of new technology.
“We’re pleased to be partnering with Iowa State University on the Kauffman Challenge grant to help accelerate innovation and technology commercialization across our campuses and in the state of Iowa in particular,” Hensley said. “We’ll be utilizing the bonds to identify strategies to increase technology commercialization efforts, bring new innovations to the market, and create economic impact for our universities and communities.”