UK Innovate receives EDA grant to launch center, promote economic growth

Photo of Campus
Mark Cornelison | UK Photo.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 16, 2022) UK Innovate, the University of Kentucky’s innovation and entrepreneurship enterprise within UK Research, has received a competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA).

The nearly $550,000 in funding will be used to launch the UK Innovate University Center (UKUC) — allowing for the growth of current programs and the formation of new ones. Additionally, the center will spur innovation and promote entrepreneurship across the Commonwealth.

“UKUC will feature programs to accelerate the commercialization of university technologies, train students for career opportunities and disseminate digital literacy to advance these capabilities,” Christine Wildes, associate director of UK Innovate, said. “Ultimately, this funding will allow UK Innovate to pave the way for future economic growth and expanded job opportunities.”

A key partner in the project, the Gatton College of Business and Economics matched the grant. “I am extremely delighted to partner with UK Innovate on this 5-year partnership,” Dean Simon Sheather said. “Offering additional experiential learning opportunities for our Gatton MBA students with an entrepreneurial focus will increase the career outcomes for our MBA students and the value of the MBA program.”

The purpose of EDA’s University Center Program is to enable institutions of higher education to establish and operate University Centers (UCs) focused on leveraging university assets — ultimately, building regional economic ecosystems that support innovation and high-growth entrepreneurship, resiliency and inclusiveness.

Since 1980, EDA-funded UCs have responded to the needs of manufacturers and processors for technology transfer and commercialization assistance. More recently, some UCs have been providing guidance and resources on how to create a digitally inclusive economy, while others are working with stakeholders in their regions to address economic impacts from the closure of major plants.

UKUC will accomplish its commercialization, entrepreneurial culture and training goals through three key programs:

  • UK Innovate: Force will train students in an engaging and inclusive environment through scalable programs for systematic de-risking of university technologies.
  • UK Innovate: Digital Certifications Training will feature a digital gamification system designed to reward achievements and opportunities for promotion with demonstrated experiential successes.
  • UK Innovate: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Literacy will increase digital software literacy for students statewide — including those at rural regional higher-education institutions — to better equip a remote workforce from Kentucky’s rural communities that continue to recover from disruptions to the coal and tobacco industries.

“We are excited about the prospects for community impact that the UK Innovate University Center will provide,” Ian McClure, executive director of UK Innovate, said. “This type of community-engaged work supports UK’s land-grant mission to advance economic development, improve our state’s innovation economy and present new career development and entrepreneurship opportunities to aspiring people across the Commonwealth.”

To learn more about UK Innovate, you can go online.

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.