Ventureprise, UNC Charlotte’s innovation and entrepreneurship center, has been named one of 10 recipients of the U.S. Small Business Administration and National Science and Technology Council’s Lab-to-Market (L2M) Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem Prize Competition. This award recognizes Ventureprise’s programming to address inclusivity, innovation and sustainable growth through research and economic development on UNC Charlotte’s campus and in the Charlotte community.
Launched in September 2020, the L2M prize competition accepted more than 160 submissions from across the United States. Ventureprise received one of 10 “Visionary” prizes of $25,000. The L2M prize competition recognizes the most impactful organizations, programs and ideas that support the research and development (R&D) innovation ecosystems, particularly those focused on underrepresented communities and pandemic responses.
This award builds on national and statewide recognition Ventureprise has earned recently for its commitment to supporting projects initiated by founders from underrepresented groups. Previously, Ventureprise launched two NSF I-Corps customer discovery pilot cohorts focused on underrepresented technology founders and on pandemic response technologies. The 12 team cohorts were among the 300+ technology teams to graduate from the Ventureprise Launch program over the last several years.
“UNC Charlotte is launching a number of new inclusive innovation programs designed to connect underrepresented talent with technology and innovation opportunities,” said Devin Collins, interim executive director of Ventureprise. “There exists tremendous untapped opportunity to engage talented and deserving entrepreneurs with innovation and commercialization support.”
In addition, last fall, Ventureprise was selected as one of 17 NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM grant awardees across North Carolina. NC IDEA required proposals focus on supporting underrepresented entrepreneurs building scalable businesses; defined as entrepreneurs that identify as female, identify as minority or are located in counties designated as “Tier 1” or “Tier 2” by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
“Managing research and commercialization programs can be daunting,” said NC IDEA CEO Thom Ruhe. “To do so with a focus on equity and inclusion is very rare and a big reason why we support this effort.”
The Ventureprise proposal leveraged pilot programs to-date and partnerships with City Startup Labs and UNC Charlotte’s Office of Research Commercialization and Development to create educational, technical and entrepreneurial inclusive opportunities. “
“With the combination of funds from both awards, we aim to increase the diversity of participation in innovation programs and in entrepreneurial leadership positions, and create a technology commercialization education platform for women and underrepresented minority decision makers, advisors and entrepreneurs offering training programs in customer discovery and in the tech transfer and commercialization process,” said Collins.