2 UK-Led Organizations Win SBA Awards

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 14, 2021) — Two innovation programs led by the University of Kentucky are receiving a part of the U.S. Small Business Administration's (SBA) $5.4 million in prizes to support inclusive entrepreneurship in the innovation ecosystem.

The SBA recently announced winners for its Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Catalyst competition, a new component aimed at spurring investment in underrepresented communities within the innovation economy at scale.

Kentucky Commercialization Ventures (KCV), a program co-founded by UK’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) and led in partnership with Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC), the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and the University of Louisville, was one of 84 winners of the GAFC, receiving $50,000 to support the program’s work to translate innovations, research findings and intellectual property into market-ready products, services and job-creating startups from all of the public institutions of higher education in Kentucky that don’t have dedicated commercialization resources.

XLerator Network (XLN), OTC’s Southeast IDeA Hub funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, was one of eight winners of the SBIR Catalyst competition, receiving $150,000. XLN, led by Louisville-based accelerator Xlerate Health and UK as the lead academic institution, is a Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hub connecting biomedical researchers and administrators at 25 universities in the Southeast with resources to commercialize innovations into products that improve human health.

XLN’s award is focused on expanding its EnRICH program, a human health-focused innovation harvesting and commercialization “pre-accelerator” program for faculty and student innovators at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) across the country. EnRICH was co-founded by OTC and Xlerate Health in partnership with Jackson State University (JSU) and is led by JSU.

Taunya Phillips, director of UK’s Office of Technology Commercialization, will be partnering with XLerate Health and JSU to execute the new training model for HBCUs.

”The grant will allow the team to use its collective knowledge and insights about SBIR programs to broaden awareness of them at HBCU campuses,” said Phillips. “The instruction, coaching and mentoring will help increase the competitiveness of SBIR applications from HBCU startups. I am eager to see how our work positively impacts the number of SBIR awards from HBCUs.”

“UK Innovate and the OTC are honored and grateful to be partnered with such great collaborators as XLerate Health and Jackson State University related to the Catalyst Award, and Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation and Kentucky Commercialization Ventures related to the Growth Accelerator Fund Award,” said UK’s Associate Vice President for Research, Innovation and Economic Impact Ian McClure, J.D. “Intentional efforts like these projects show our commitment to inclusive innovation, something we want to continue to make a top priority. We look forward to our collaboration with these partners to ensure open and equitable access to best practices and programming to support underrepresented innovators and first-time founders.”

SBA award competitors were required to submit a presentation deck and a 90-second video to describe their overall plan for an award, including their work with targeted entrepreneur groups, experience with STEM/R&D and implementation plans for the prize funds. Applications were judged by panels of experts from the private and public sector with experience in early-stage investment, entrepreneurship, academic, startups and economic development.

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.