LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 12, 2020) — University of Kentucky Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), on behalf of UK Research Foundation (UKRF), was awarded a three-year $600,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) Build to Scale Program, one of 52 projects funded from 36 states. UKRF is a recipient of the 2020 Venture Challenge Grant, which supports entrepreneurship and accelerating company growth in communities, regions or combinations of regions.
The grant will fund the growth of Launch Blue, a nonequity seeking pre-seed accelerator program that aims to launch nationally competitive Kentucky startups. Launch Blue was founded by a consortium of community partners led by OTC and comprising Awesome Inc, Base 110, Bluegrass Angels (BGA), Bullard, Commerce Lexington, Kentucky Small Business Development Center (KSBDC), Marrow, and Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC).
“OTC is thrilled and honored to be awarded this grant by the EDA. In the same vein, we are grateful for our partners that helped found Launch Blue with us and excited for our innovators and entrepreneurs across the state that will benefit from a more robust Launch Blue program,” said Ian McClure, OTC executive director. “This type of innovation ecosystem-improving partnership embodies OTC’s mission, and we look forward to seeing the impact on the intended beneficiaries — Kentucky’s future startups.”
Eric Hartman, OTC associate director of New Ventures and Launch Blue program advisor, instructor and coach, is the principal investigator on this grant.
“We have been pleased with the community’s response to Launch Blue since its creation in early 2020,” Hartman said. “EDA’s validation of the program as one of the top new startup accelerators in the country with the ability to impact the Kentucky startup ecosystem is both encouraging and humbling.”
This funding will enable Launch Blue to meet a need for startup-focused training and support for Kentucky entrepreneurs. It will serve as a catalyst to engage the most experienced entrepreneurship resources in Kentucky’s developing ecosystem, and empower and equip entrepreneurs statewide to succeed at the next level to participate in national seed-stage accelerator programs.
The Launch Blue program consists of a 12-week accelerator and a six-month incubator along with special focus cohorts and labs. The program will also launch a Demo Day that will highlight Launch Blue’s most successful portfolio companies and create outreach and engagement opportunities for the full entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“This EDA grant will allow us to provide personalized coaching and training for technical startups founders looking to launch their business in Kentucky,” said Laura Halligan, Launch Blue’s executive director, lead instructor and coach, and a co-investigator on the EDA grant. “We are hopeful that this accelerator program will have a positive impact across the state and allow founders the training and tools they need early on to be successful.”
Launch Blue will engage statewide clients, resources, capital, mentors, industry, services, experts and programming, and provide an engaging space and community for Kentucky’s entrepreneurs. A critical element of Launch Blue’s mission is outreach and these efforts will reach prospective clients, mentors, local, regional and national investors, national seed-stage and growth-stage accelerators, and the general public.
UK has five innovator teams (Andrew Byrd, Florin Despa, Jared Hammill, Carrie Shaffer and Qingjun Wang) currently participating in the inaugural UAccel cohort operation through Launch Blue.
“We are so excited about receiving this grant from the EDA, and what it means for our ability to assist more Kentucky startups as they commercialize their ideas and add to the economic vitality of the state,” said Taunya Phillips, OTC’s senior associate director of New Ventures and Alliances and chair of Launch Blue’s Advisory Board.
Base 110 is a match partner, will serve as the home of Launch Blue and will provide coworking and meeting space for Launch Blue teams plus office and meeting space to support programming and operations.
The long-term vision for Launch Blue is to serve Kentucky entrepreneurs as a regional and national thought leader in startups and technology commercialization.
Learn more about the EDA grant here.
The Office of Technology Commercialization is the technology transfer office for the University of Kentucky. The core mission of the OTC is to advance innovations that make a difference.
The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.