As the nation prepares to celebrate small businesses in November, Florida A&M University (FAMU) is building a one-of-a-kind innovation ecosystem that is designed to inspire and extend a culture of entrepreneurship across the region, state and ultimately the nation.
FAMU recently received more than $1 million in federal funding to strengthen entrepreneurship and technology commercialization on campus and in the community and will use the funds to form the Research, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Hub also known as REACH.
The goal of the REACH program is to advance community development and create networks of facilities and support services that provide a sustainable commercialization pathway for entrepreneurs and innovators.
A strategic focus of the program will be stimulating entrepreneurship in underserved rural and urban communities in the region, including development and engagement programs within Tallahassee’s Southside, building upon the success of the recently launched I/O Avenue Code Academy in partnership with the Office of the Mayor and Domi Station.
Through the Hub, Florida’s community-based entrepreneurs will receive training, support with commercialization activities, and access to incubation facilities, as the University implements microcenters focused on technology commerce. The University will also offer on-campus accelerator facilities, maker spaces and digital spaces that enable students and faculty to collaborate on bringing their ideas to reality with the support of a rich network of mentors.
“We are expanding a culture of entrepreneurship at FAMU,” said Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “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. We are appreciative of Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and his staff for recognizing FAMU’s vision and investing in the future of our community. Working with our community and campus stakeholders, we are committed the success of this program and the well-being of the citizens we serve.”
Funding for the REACH program was awarded through the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency (EDA) Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which has provided FAMU $483,000 over three years through its i6 Challenge. The i6 Challenge is a leading national initiative designed to support the creation of centers for innovation and entrepreneurship that increase the rate at which innovations, ideas, intellectual property, and research are translated into products, services, viable companies, and, ultimately, jobs.
Applauding FAMU on its new REACH program, alumnus and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said, “I congratulate FAMU on being selected for this highly competitive award. The City is also an active supporter of entrepreneurial and technology commercialization programs as a central element of its economic development strategy and achieving our community’s full participation…. FAMU is a key leader in providing the capabilities and making the connections necessary to realize this collaborative vision.”
FAMU’s REACH was one of only 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.
“The Trump Administration is committed to strengthening U.S. production and exports, which are essential to our nation’s economic growth,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, announcing the awards. “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.”
Additional funding support for FAMU’s efforts was awarded through the EDA’s Atlanta Office via the University Center Competition, which is providing FAMU $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, FAMU’s coordinator of Export Control. “We will utilize existing university facilities and expertise to engage students and community members in connected technology-based pathways while increasing individual economic opportunity and supporting business formation and expansion.”
Community partners for both projects include Domi Education Inc., the Leon County Research and Development Authority, the Tallahassee/Leon County Office of Economic Vitality, the City of Tallahassee’s TechHire Initiative, the Florida Institute for Commercialization of Public Research, and Stirius, Inc.
Participating FAMU contributors include its Office of Technology Transfer, the School of Business and Industry’s Small Business Development Center and Interdisciplinary Center for Creativity and Innovation, the Center for Public Computing and Workforce Development, and the School of Architecture and Engineering Technology.