SBA Awards $50,000 to U of A for STEM Company Acceleration

The U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation will use the prize money to develop a process that connects student entrepreneurs and faculty from rural institutions to urban university resources to increase commercialization activities across Arkansas.
Brandon Howard

The U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation will use the prize money to develop a process that connects student entrepreneurs and faculty from rural institutions to urban university resources to increase commercialization activities across Arkansas.

The U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation has received a $50,000 prize from the U.S. Small Business Administration to build strategic partnerships that will support the launch, growth and scale of small businesses in Arkansas that are focused on research and development in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

The SBA announced May 17 that the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation was among the Stage One winners for the 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, which seeks to "incentivize innovation ecosystem stakeholders (and) connect both new and established participants in the national innovation ecosystem," according to the federal agency. Winners were selected through a multi-tier review panel process with experts in entrepreneurship, business, innovation and strategic planning within and outside of the federal government. 

Winning this prize further validates the importance of OEI's priority to empower faculty across the state to grow more student entrepreneurs, according to Tiffany Henry, who spearheaded the application process and serves as OEI's instructional designer of training and workshops. 

"This need was first identified at our inaugural SEED Summit, which aims to bridge the town and gown divide," Henry said. "We have already lined up a rockstar team to collaborate on how to grow more entrepreneurs in rural places and identify opportunities to share resources and expand networks." 

Henry said OEI will use the prize money to develop a process that connects student entrepreneurs and faculty from rural institutions to urban university resources to increase commercialization activities across the state. 

"We also hope to bridge the geography gap by supporting the development of startup teams that represent multiple Arkansas regions," Henry said. "Our hope is that this program provides additional options and opportunities to keep talent local after graduation so they can continue to contribute to our vibrant state." 

OEI will also compete for an additional $50,000 to $150,000 later this summer. Stage Two cash prizes will support the "Growth Accelerator Partnerships" to further develop strong innovation ecosystems to fast-track building and scaling of STEM/R&D-focused small businesses, according to the SBA. 

Launched in 2014, the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition has awarded 387 prizes totaling over $19 million to 284 unique winners across 52 states and U.S. territories, according to the SBA. Stage One applicants represented 45 U.S. states and territories, with 70% as first-time applicants to the competition. 

About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students across all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village, and Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, OEI provides free workshops and programs — including social and corporate innovation design teams, venture internships, competitions and startup coaching. A unit of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Division of Economic Development, OEI also offers on-demand support for students who will be innovators within existing organizations and entrepreneurs who start something new. 

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