A regional partnership, led by Lorain County Community College, has received a $500,000 grant to help advance core digital technologies start-ups in Northeast Ohio. The Northeast Ohio Regional Acceleration in Digital Innovation (NEO ReADI) initiative will support innovation and commercialization of key technologies anchored in the region.
Lorain County Community College through its Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) technology incubator will manage the three-year grant. The grant is one of 25 awards made nationally by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) i6 Challenge opportunity awards that were announced this week. The regional partnership is focused on accelerating proof-of-concept and enterprise development services of core digital technologies, including sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), embedded/wearable technologies and other products to populate, integrate and act upon electronic information pipelines.
NEO ReADI partners include well-established tech incubators and impactful economic development organizations, including the following: DigitalC, BioEnterprise, the Braintree Incubator, JumpStart Inc., MAGNET, TeamNEO and the Youngstown Business Incubator. Key support also came from Ohio’s Entrepreneurial Signature Program funded by the Ohio Third Frontier, as well as the Fund for Our Economic Future and the RITE Board.
NEO ReADI’s goal is to grow and attract investment for the core regional digital technology cluster. It aims to start up eight to 12 companies with proven concepts and markets within three years, and continue thereafter advancing four or more cluster ventures each year to marketability and commercialization.
Importantly, two seed funds are aligned with NEO ReADI to support project clients financially, with up to $1 million in funds available to amplify cluster start-up and early-stage enterprises. The DigitalC Fund is an equity-based seed fund focused on the cluster. Innovation Fund Northeast Ohio is administered by GLIDE and the LCCC Foundation, in partnership with five higher education partners. Innovation Fund Northeast Ohio is a nationally recognized non-equity-based pre-seed fund, and is cited as a best-practice non-profit fund in tech-based economic development.
NEO ReADI also leverages key programs of its partners, such as DigitalC and Team NEO. “This partnership will help us continue to evolve our proven Seeker-Solver methodology surrounding the cluster,” said Jay Foran, senior vice president at Team NEO. “That process engages existing, larger enterprises in ‘pre-innovation’ efforts to identify business opportunities and unmet needs. It also links them to ‘post-innovation’ entities such as our NEO ReADI partners, and through them, connects to new startups to spur investment and augment supply chains and business networks. All are key elements to accelerated cluster growth.”
LCCC President Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D., said Lorain County has a long history of building partnerships that make it a regional catalyst for innovation and the fostering of entrepreneurial development in the tech industry.
“This award focuses on technologies that are of strategic interest and opportunity for advancing the economy in our region,” Ballinger said. “LCCC is fortunate to work with key technology and talent development partners in the region. These exceptional partnerships and the resources they bring, coupled with the success of the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE), the Innovation Fund, and the Richard Desich SMART Commercialization Center, helped to successfully secure the grant.”
More than 200 applications were submitted as part of the competition and LCCC is one of only two recipients in Ohio and one of two community colleges nationally that will oversee awards. The only other community college to receive an award is Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, NY.
This grant comes from the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program that is aimed at expanding cluster-focused, proof-of-concept and commercialization programs.
“The RIS program advances innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country by addressing two essential core components that entrepreneurs need to take their ideas to market: programmatic support and access to capital,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “As America’s Innovation Agency, the Commerce Department has a key role to play in supporting the visionaries and job creators of tomorrow. Congratulations to today’s awardees who will make U.S. communities, businesses, and the workforce more globally competitive.”