UAH business incubator project gets $500,000 U.S. Dept. of Commerce boost


Dr. Virginia “Suzy” Young, director of UAH’s Office for Proposal Development, said the grant gives UAH “a head start” on the mission of its planned Innovation to Invention Center (I2C).

Michael Mercier | UAH

Plans for a $12 million business incubator at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) were boosted Monday by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Economic Development Administration.

The EDA investment funds the university's Virtual Proof of Concept Center (POCC): The Growth & Acceleration of Products (GAP) Project, which will allow UAH to jump-start many of the functions of its planned Innovation to Invention Center (I2C) as it gathers funding for that center's building.

The POCC will serve as a strategic approach to utilize university resources at UAH to bring "shelved" technologies into the marketplace through identification and funding of entrepreneurs and by providing a range of services to convert ideas, research and prototypes into viable commercial products.

We sincerely appreciate all the advice and assistance we have and continue to receive from Sen. Shelby and his unwavering support of UAH and the Huntsville community.

Dr. Ray Vaughn
UAH vice president for research and economic development

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby's office was instrumental in assisting UAH during the application process, said Dr. Ray Vaughn, UAH vice president for research and economic development.

"We sincerely appreciate all the advice and assistance we have and continue to receive from Sen. Shelby and his unwavering support of UAH and the Huntsville community," Dr. Vaughn said. "We are extremely pleased about the news that EDA awarded this i6 Challenge grant to UAH in support of our Innovation to Invention Center."

The GAP proposal was a UAH idea supported by the community to investigate commercialization of otherwise "throw away" technologies, said Dr. Virginia "Suzy" Young, director of UAH's Office for Proposal Development, which managed the grant application process for the university.

"The I2C is in the planning stage now and will be somewhere around a 33-month effort," Dr. Young said. "This task will help us put in place the necessary processes to get a head start on the center's mission by providing a 'virtual proof of concept' center so we can be ready to operate as soon as possible."

UAH is among 25 awardees receiving a total of $10 million that were announced by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker under the EDA 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.

"As the driving force behind the administration's focus on entrepreneurship, the Dept. of Commerce is committed to helping set the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to test new ideas, take risks, find financing and customers, and ultimately thrive," said Sec. Pritzker. "The Regional Innovation Strategies program is critical to ensuring that entrepreneurs have access to the tools they need to move their ideas and inventions from idea to market."

The 2015 RIS program is managed by EDA's Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) and is designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country through two different competitions: the i6 Challenge and the Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grants competition.

The i6 Challenge, under which UAH received its grant, was launched in 2010 as part of the Startup America Initiative, and is now in its fifth iteration. The i6 Challenge is a national competition that makes small, targeted, high-impact investments to support startup creation, innovation, and help turn technology into jobs. The funding supports the development and expansion of new and existing Proof-of-Concept and Commercialization Centers, which help innovators fine tune and scale their innovations to bring new products and services to the market.

EDA grants are awarded through a competitive process based upon the application's merit, the applicant's eligibility and the availability of funds.