By Byron Dobson, Tallahassee Democrat senior writer | 4:00 p.m. ET Nov. 23, 2017
Florida A&M University’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship on campus and on Tallahassee’s south-side have been bolstered with more than $1 million in federal money.
The funding will be used over a period of years to encourage and develop start-up businesses through the creation of the Research, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Hub, also known as REACH.
The goal of REACH is to create an environment that is more conducive to helping entrepreneurs and innovators move from concept to getting their business off the ground. The plan is to stimulate ideas that lead to businesses and job creation in technology and other fields.
The targeted areas will include Tallahassee’s south-side and eventually extend into Gadsden and other rural counties to help spur entrepreneurship opportunities in under-served areas.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship recently awarded FAMU $483,000 over three years through its i6 Challenge.
The i6 Challenge is a national program designed to support the creation of centers for innovation and entrepreneurship.
The Commerce Department also provided FAMU with $590,000 over five years to establish the FAMU Innovation Center.
“The Innovation Center will support the REACH concept by increasing the impact of current FAMU initiatives that focus on the commercialization of research, entrepreneurial development, digital development, and making,” said David Teek, who works in FAMU’s Office of Technology Transfer.
The university recently launched the I/O Avenue Code Academy in partnership with the Office of the Mayor and Domi Station. The academy is the first launched under the new initiative.
FAMU’s REACH was one of 42 national projects selected from a pool of more than 217 applicants ranging from government agencies and non-profits to higher education institutions and business incubators.
“We are expanding a culture of entrepreneurship at FAMU,” FAMU interim president Larry Robinson said. “Through our new program, we estimate that within six years we will have supported the launch of several new firms, generated new jobs and leveraged additional private investments.”
Teek said the federal money is matched by FAMU commitments of time and expenditures of $1.3 million, which includes external support and matching assistance from Domi Station, the Leon County Research and Development Authority and Stirius Inc. The Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality is also a key coordinating partner.
“The grants are important to FAMU because they are enabling us to connect the dots within the university and community to create real pathways from discovery to market, which will enable more of the research done by FAMU and FSU faculty to be translated into commercial activity, which provides benefits to consumers, new business formation in our community, and licensing revenue to the universities that can be reinvested in new opportunities,” Teek said.
The project will also support the launch and operation of a new south-side incubator under development by FAMU’s School of Business and Industry’s Interdisciplinary Center for Creativity and Innovation.
The site on Orange Avenue across from Nims Middle School will provide access to business development and entrepreneurial support and services. The goal would be to create more businesses along South Monroe, South Adams and Orange Avenue.
The center is expected to launch by next summer.
“More broadly, the grants will provide the ability to leverage and deploy university-based time and talent to foster new businesses in our community and others around technology, agriculture and creative content,” Teek said.
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