2 UK-supported Programs Awarded for Creating Inclusive Research and Innovation

photo of research lab EnRICH program
photo of Monique Kuykendoll Quarterman

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 28, 2021) — Two programs fostered by the University of Kentucky Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) have been awarded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the National Science and Technology Council for creating “a more inclusive research and development innovation ecosystem for the future.”

The Engaging Researchers and Innovators for Commercialization at HBCUs (EnRICH) program and Kentucky Commercialization Ventures (KCV) each received a $25,000 prize as part of the “Visionary” category in the new Lab-to-Market (L2M) Inclusive Innovation Ecosystem Prize Competition, which recognizes the most impactful organizations, programs and ideas, particularly those focused on underrepresented communities and pandemic responses.

UK OTC is a founding partner of both programs, collaborating with multiple partners to design, launch, advise and support management of each.

“Not just talking but taking action to create an inclusive innovation ecosystem with equitable access to opportunity and resources — UK OTC wears that badge of responsibility proudly,” said Ian McClure, executive director of OTC. “We are thrilled to work with such like-minded partners as Jackson State University, XLerateHealth, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and the University of Louisville to get intentional about ensuring that innovation and entrepreneurship resources and culture can be accessed by any and all underrepresented communities, institutions and persons.”

EnRICH helps advance and commercialize innovative human health-focused ideas from faculty and student innovators at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Launched last summer as part of a National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)-funded initiative called XLeratorNetwork, UK and XLerateHealth, a national startup accelerator based in Louisville, partnered with Jackson State University (JSU) in Mississippi to launch the program. Spearheaded by JSU, the program is designed to support faculty and student innovators across HBCUs by equipping them with the skills needed to evaluate the commercial potential of new health care innovations. An original cohort was focused on the 31 HBCUs in the Southeast Institutional Development Award (IDeA) region (Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, West Virginia) and now the program has expanded to all HBCUs in the country in its second cohort, which is now receiving applications through Feb. 19.

"We are pleased about the potential impact of this award on the sustainability of the EnRICH program," said Almesha L. Campbell, executive director of EnRICH and assistant vice president for Research and Economic Development at Jackson State University. "From its inception, our goal has always been about the reduction in the inequities that currently exist and addressing barriers that prevent HBCUs from fully engaging and benefiting from all the activities in the innovation and entrepreneurial space. HBCUs are pillars of their communities, and thus, the activities inherent in innovation and entrepreneurship programs, such as EnRICH, are critical to the growth and sustainability of their ecosystems."

"Determined to reverse systemic underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic populations in deep tech innovation and entrepreneurship, we are thrilled to partner with JSU and UK to leverage our resources to create expanded opportunities for underrepresented faculty, students and entrepreneurs, with a particular emphasis on outcomes and true equity," said Jackie Willmot, CEO of XLerateHealth.

EnRICH is powered by the XLerator Network funded through an STTR award UT2GM130174 from the NIGMS, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The program was also recently highlighted by Forbes magazine. Read here.

KCV focuses on commercializing the best ideas originating from Kentucky’s public universities and colleges that do not have dedicated or full-service commercialization offices. KCV provides the tools and expertise to translate innovations, research findings and intellectual property into market-ready products, services and job-creating startups. KCV also serves as a commercialization resource for individual entrepreneurs and companies seeking to establish and grow their businesses in Kentucky by partnering with higher education institutions for product and workforce development.

Founded through a partnership between the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development (CED), UK and the University of Louisville, KCV is funded through KY Innovation — the state’s office for entrepreneurial and small business support within the CED and managed by the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation. Other partners include Eastern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University, Northern Kentucky University, Kentucky State University, Morehead State University, Murray State University and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

"We are grateful for the commitment of our partners, including the University of Kentucky, to create more inclusive experiences and pathways in innovation statewide," said Monique Kuykendoll Quarerman, KCV's executive director, "It is a tremendous honor that the Small Business Administration recognizes Kentucky for leading the way."

Launched last fall, the L2M prize competition accepted over 160 submissions from applicants across the U.S. seeking their share of the $330,000 competition prize. KCV and EnRICH are two of 10 programs awarded in the “Visionary” category. There are 18 awards in total.

Submissions were evaluated for quality and clarity by a panel of federal employees and non-federal partners with relevant expertise. Final selection was made by an interagency committee in coordination with the SBA’s Office of Innovation and Technology.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.