U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced the winners of the i6 Challenge, a new $12 million innovation competition led by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Locke made the announcement during his keynote remarks at an event on regional innovation clusters co-hosted by The Council on Competitiveness and The Brookings Institution.
The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron (ABIA) and University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) were the recipients of the Chicago region award for their "Innovative Solutions for Invention Xceleration" project. The aim of the multimillion dollar initiative is to increase innovation and minimize the time from idea to commercialization of new technologies by bringing together world-class scientists, physicians, engineers, researchers and entrepreneurs in the biomedical device/product and polymer science industries of Northeast Ohio.
Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness, also recognized the award and publicly congratulated ABIA and UARF at the event. University of Akron President Dr. Luis M. Proenza and Nicholas York, a member of the UA Board of Trustees, are taking an active role in today’s meeting in Washington, D.C. Proenza also was a keynote speaker at the event.
"This is another example of national recognition for the transformational power of our community's shared vision," said Dr. Frank Douglas, ABIA president and chief executive officer. "It is a wonderful acknowledgment of the commitment to patient-centered innovation and commercialization, and the hard work to that end across the ABIA and all of its founding organizations."
“The University of Akron, as a Northeast Ohio anchor for the biomaterials innovation cluster, and as founder of UARF and founding partner of ABIA, congratulates ABIA, UARF and their partners on this outstanding recognition from the U.S. Department of Commerce,” said Dr. Proenza. “Our regional prosperity and economic security are dependent on an effective and vibrant innovation system. We are fortunate to have such nationally recognized innovators and programs as part of our community. This award to ABIA and UARF, which have a culture of scientific and biomedical excellence, innovation and commercialization, will help guarantee a sustainable effort in translating creative ideas into commercially viable products in order to truly benefit humanity.”
The i6 Challenge seeks to identify and support the nation’s best ideas for technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in six different regions of the country. The winning team from each region will receive $1 million from EDA to support their project and may be eligible for additional awards from NIH and NSF. Projects include efforts to drive innovative technologies in the medical and bioscience industries to market more quickly by bringing experts in science and academia together with public and private sector businesses and entrepreneurs.
“I applaud the winners of the i6 Challenge on their tremendous achievement,” Locke said. “Each of the winners exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovation and will help move America forward by increasing our competitiveness around the world. The i6 Challenge represents a key component of President Barack Obama’s innovation strategy — to move great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to create jobs and economic growth.”
“I congratulate the very distinguished winners of the inaugural i6 Challenge competition to advance President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation,” said Aneesh Chopra, U.S. chief technology officer and associate director for technology in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “And I also want to celebrate all of the entrepreneurs, investors, universities, foundations and nonprofits that applied their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to the cause of spurring economic growth through innovation. The ingenuity you displayed in your applications reaffirmed the value of this administration’s broader policy support for the use of challenges and prizes to help solve big problems.”
“I am proud that the Economic Development Administration will be working with these organizations that have identified new ways to tap into the nation's innovative capacity,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez. “Their ideas represent the best that the six regions of our country had to offer, and I am confident that their projects will lead to job creation and economic growth.”
“We are pleased to support NSF Small Business Innovation Research grantees as partners with the winners of the Department of Commerce i6 Challenge,” said Kesh Narayanan, director of the NSF Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships. “We expect this collaboration to build on scientific and engineering discoveries and to accelerate regional innovation.”
“Congratulations to the six winners of the inaugural i6 Challenge competition,” said National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “NIH is committed to advancing President Obama’s policy of accelerating innovation in science and medicine across the United States.”
The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron – an exceptional collaboration of Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Health System, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, Summa Health System, The University of Akron and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – is focused on patient-centered innovation and commercialization at the intersection of biomaterials and medicine.
The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) is a single point of contact for industry, integrating research support services, including pre- and post-award contract administration, to facilitate compliance. As a separate corporation, UARF can engage in activities that state universities cannot, such as indemnifying research sponsors or holding equity in companies that license University intellectual property.
Locke also announced today that the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School is the recipient of an EDA grant under the Mapping Regional Innovation Clusters Project, a competition to help policymakers and practitioners across America identify their strengths and more effectively tap into the regional innovation clusters that are driving 21st century job growth. The institute will receive approximately $1 million to develop a cluster map by analyzing their regional assets, enabling them to create comprehensive strategies to promote economic growth.
This mapping grant is part of EDA’s Jobs and Innovation Partnership, a long-term prosperity plan to help build an environment where the private sector can flourish and create connections that will bring together vibrant regional economic ecosystems.
For more information on the i6 Challenge winners and EDA’s Mapping Regional Innovation Clusters Project, visit the Economic Development Administration.