UNeTech receives $150,000 prize from the SBA
September 30, 2021

UNeTech is pleased to announce we will receive $150,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to fund the creation of a collaborative partnership of entrepreneurial support organizations aimed at supporting innovation-focused entrepreneurs from underserved communities. The eight winners of the 2021 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Catalyst Prize competition were announced on Sept. 16.

The SBIR Catalyst competition is intended to expand access to the SBIR program, a highly competitive grant program that supports small businesses engaged in research and development with the potential for commercialization. Funding from the SBA will help UNeTech create the Heartland SBIR Catalyst Partnership, a collection of technology transfer offices at 11 midwestern universities aimed at linking university-owned intellectual property, SBIR funding and local entrepreneurs from underrepresented populations. As a part of the competition, UNeTech created this video and submitted it to the SBA.

From left, Jace Gatzemeyer, PhD, UNeTech innovation development strategist; Joe Runge, JD, associate director of UNeTech; and Rod Markin, MD, PhD, executive director of UNeTech

Jace Gatzemeyer, PhD, UNeTech’s innovation development strategist, was responsible for landing the prize and will be leading the implementation of the new partnership. “UNeTech has an ambitious plan to build an inclusive R&D ecosystem in the heartland,” Gatzemeyer said. “This funding will support the continued assembly of successful SBIR proposals.”

“Heartland universities are fruitful sources of technological innovation,” said Gatzemeyer, “but developing university inventions into profitable products remains fairly challenging. Likewise, brilliant entrepreneurs from minority populations in the region are plentiful, but they face many obstacles — access to capital and business networks, for instance.”

Gatzemeyer said UNeTech plans to 1) draw on the portfolios of Heartland university technology transfer offices for promising university intellectual property; 2) fuel startups based on these inventions with funding from the SBIR program; and 3) identify, recruit, and train cohorts of entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups and pair them with these SBIR-powered startups.

“Jace has put together an amazing program,” said Rod Markin, MD, PhD, executive director of UNeTech. “It is wonderful to see him get the national recognition he deserves.” Dr. Markin said the prize funding will help the incubator advance more ambitious projects.

Joe Runge, JD, associate director of UNeTech, expressed gratitude to the SBA. “It is an honor for UNeTech to be mentioned alongside such experienced colleagues as BBC Entrepreneurial Training and OK Catalyst, who also were recognized from our region,” he said.

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