Community partners rally to generate $1.5 million in matching funds to continue fostering a culture of innovation throughout Central Florida.
Gaining momentum for its continued leadership in innovation and commercialization, the University of Central Florida was awarded two federal grants, totaling up to $750,000, from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in April.
The UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science and community partners raised an additional $750,000 in matching funds to supplement the EDA grants. Partners included Harris Corporation, the City of Orlando, Crossroads Investors, Canvs, Rollins College, Starter Studio and Creative Village Orlando, among others. The funding represents $1.5 million to help foster the culture of innovation throughout the Central Florida region.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker participated in a press conference at UCF to make the announcement, as part of the 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies program grants.
UCF was one of 24 institutions to receive RIS program funding, a new initiative designed to advance innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country, and one of only two universities to earn both an i6 Challenge Grant and a Cluster Grant for Seed Capital Funds.
i6 CHALLENGE FUNDS
The i6 Challenge was launched in 2010 as part of the Startup America initiative and is now in its fourth iteration. i6 is a national competition that makes small, targeted, high-impact investments to support startup creation, innovation and commercialization. Now that the i6 Challenge is included in the new Regional Innovation Strategies program, the funding will support more than just proof-of-concept centers. Investments will also go toward the expansion of existing centers and in later-stage commercialization centers, helping innovators fine tune and scale their innovations to bring new products and services to the market. The total amount of funding nationwide for the i6 Challenge under RIS is nearly $8 million.
The i6 Challenge funds in Central Florida will be used to extend the UCF I-Corps pilot program across the five economically challenged counties (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard and Volusia), and to help transition the region’s engineering workforce into high growth technology companies that design, manufacture and export innovative products through the Maker Spaces Proof Of Concept Center.
This center will also leverage both the statewide Florida Cleantech Accelerator Network (FL-CAN, which was created through a former i6 grant) and the Osceola County Advanced Materials Research Center once it opens.
The StarterCorps Fund will directly address the critical gap in seed funding, the largest barrier faced by the region’s technology entrepreneurs. The StarterCorps Seed Fund will directly serve the same five counties referenced above. Ultimately, UCF will raise, deploy and manage a $5 million evergreen StarterCorps Seed Fund to launch innovative technology and advanced manufacturing startups based in Central Florida.
StarterCorps’ evergreen fund structure means all investment profits will be returned to the fund to be redeployed in future investments. StarterCorps will provide equity-based funding in a series of milestone-based investments. Milestones will be based on a team’s aggressive progress in transforming commercially viable prototypes (which were developed in Starter Studio and I-Corps programs) into viable technology companies that gain early market traction, have a complete founding team (business and technical skills), secure IP and can prove they are addressing an urgent market opportunity.
UCF I-Corps helps teams of innovators go through all the necessary steps before taking an item to market and uses the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science’s new Maker SpaceLab complex, created with industry partners to help them through idea, design and prototyping. Thomas O’Neal, director of UCF’s CIE, estimates that in the fifth year of the program 195 companies will be established, producing 1,730 new high-wage jobs through these teams.
“We are working with regional community partners and industry to make Central Florida an epicenter for innovation, technology and entrepreneurship,” O’Neal says. “These grants will enhance our ability to help more future entrepreneurs across five counties. The awards are a validation and recognition of the Central Florida ecosystem and UCF’s role as the partnership university.”
THE CEO NEXUS CUP
GrowFL recognizes Omega Medical Imaging for exceptional success in the niche medical market.
GrowFL recently awarded the CEO Nexus Cup to Omega Medical Imaging, a world-class manufacturer of Fluoroscopic Imaging Solutions. The company, based in Sanford, was founded in 1991 and specializes in the niche market of interventional imaging. Examples of products include customized X-Ray C-arms and interventional endoscopy imaging devices.
The CEO Nexus Cup is a member-recognition award, lauding those companies that have achieved growth and significant entrepreneurial success, in part due to their collaboration with CEO Nexus, a service group headquartered in Winter Park that helps second-stage companies. Such companies are defined as having 10 to 99 employees, $1 million to $50 million in annual revenue, and the ability and intention to grow rapidly, according to the Edward Lowe Foundation, located in Michigan.
GrowFL, in partnership with CEO Nexus, the Center for Advanced Entrepreneurship at Rollins College and The Corridor, host a quarterly CEO Forum in Orlando. These informational presentations and networking opportunities allow members to meet with and learn from fellow CEOs who have successfully guided and advanced their companies into the next stages of business development.
“We have an ambitious plan to grow exponentially during the next few years. Receiving the CEO Nexus Cup solidifies our reputation and good standing in the marketplace,” comments Brian Fleming, president and co-owner of Omega Medical Imaging. He approximates current annual revenue at $6 million, with the goal of increasing that figure to $50 million over the next five years.
“The ongoing success of entrepreneurial ventures like Omega Medical Imaging is exactly what makes the GrowFL program so important to our state,” cites O’Neal. “The tools and resources we provide can become an integral part of a company’s growth.”