MADISON, Wis. – Innovators from across the UW System with a business idea that could contribute to Wisconsin’s “knowledge economy” are invited to apply for the Ideadvance program.
New this year: Beginning with the April 28 deadline, Ideadvance will accept applications from graduates of any UW System campus except UW-Madison. The program combines early-stage grant funding with business mentoring for UW System part-time or full-time staff, faculty, students and alumni from all campuses except UW-Madison. Those affiliated with UW-Madison are allowed to contribute as team members on eligible projects, just not as primary clients.
Ideadvance, launched in 2014, has awarded grants to 48 Stage 1 teams, of which 13 teams have been awarded Stage 2 funding. Stage 1, with funding up to $25,000, focuses on achieving commercialization milestones to reduce risk and determine need in the marketplace to solve a problem. Stage 2, with follow-on funding up to $50,000, helps a select few to advance their business models to effectively deliver customer solutions and attract investors.
The Ideadvance program promotes learning as well as support for an innovative idea and business model. The grant dollars awarded to teams are only received after they demonstrate key learnings towards their commercialization goals.
“We try to simulate the real world startup environment for these entrepreneurs,” Center of Technology Commercialization Associate Director Dave Linz said. “We want them to ‘get out of the building’ and test their ideas and business models in the marketplace.”
Alana Platt, founder of Classmunity, a web-based fund-raising tool for schools, valued not only the funding to create jobs and drive revenue but also the mentorship of the program.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without Ideadvance,” Pruitt said. “You don’t learn entrepreneurship in Computer Science.”
Awards are determined by an Investment Committee with representatives from UW System, WiSys Technology Foundation, UW-Extension, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and an entrepreneur affiliated with an eligible UW campus. The committee selects competitive proposals with a compelling case for a significant solution to a market problem and a dedicated team focused on learning about risks to their business model. The committee also focuses on the skills of the team and how well-prepared they are to tackle this learning.
Although high-tech ideas are welcome, entrepreneurs do not need to present a biotech or IT technology to receive an Ideadvance grant. The types of eligible businesses are very broad, including ideas in agriculture, manufacturing, music production, textiles, art or business. The only restrictions are that the business cannot be real estate, direct consumer retail or a hospitality business, including restaurants.
Ideadvance is part of WEDC’s efforts to expand collaboration with the UW System, business leaders and others throughout the state. Through their special S3 initiative, WEDC is working to remove commercialization barriers entrepreneurs face by providing financial and operational assistance that address business startup and seed-funding challenges.
“Ideadvance is an important resource for turning new ideas coming out of the UW campuses into businesses,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation for WEDC. “Ideadvance helps ensure that not only do the individual businesses receive the support they need at the earliest stages, but that the communities where these businesses are located can start to build stronger networks and a more robust entrepreneurial environment.”
About The Center for Technology Commercialization
The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Division for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at www.wisconsinsbir.org; follow @WisconsinCTC on Twitter.
About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at http://inwisconsin.com; follow @InWisconsin on Twitter.