UAB and Innovation Depot have caught the federal government’s eye in the best way! On September 22, UAB revealed that the US Department of Commerce awarded the university nearly half a million dollars. Innovation Depot and UAB represent 2 of 42 organizations across 28 states that received funding.
UAB plans to spend the grant on a proof-of-concept incubator, similar to Innovation Depot, to help its faculty and students launch their own businesses and grow the Birmingham community.
Innovation Depot CEO and President Devon Laney – via UAB.eduInnovation Depot plans to spend its spoils on expanding its already-successful Velocity Accelerator program. President and CEO Devon Laney says that the Depot “is thrilled to continue building on the success of our Velocity Accelerator Program as a driver of technology-based economic development for the Birmingham region.” Every one of my encounters with Velocity participants has lead me to think that this is a great idea!
The Regional Innovation Strategies program focuses on supporting entrepreneurs during the proof-of-concept phase of their startup. The RIS pays special attention to cluster-focused programs, such as Innovation Depot, because those programs accelerate regional growth.
The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, acting within the Department of Commerce, actually hands out the grants. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross asserts that “these projects will enable entrepreneurs in communities across the United States to start new businesses, manufacture innovative products and export them throughout the world — increasing America’s global competitiveness.” The nationalist take on the program might seem like a power play, but in reality the program RIS program has accepted or denied grant applications since 2010 and has received earmarked tax revenue since 2014.
Something really interesting comes up when I looked through the awards. Innovation Depot referenced UAB as a driver of growth, and UAB also received a grant – so that the University could imitate Innovation Depot’s model! I think it’s fantastic that not only will UAB community members have access to resources to build new businesses, but also that Innovation Depot has been so successful that it will soon have competition in Birmingham!