The Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University has been named a winner in this year’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, conducted by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Innovation and Technology.
The award carries a $50,000 prize. Dan Radomski, the accelerator’s executive director, said much of the funding will be used to expand industry-directed research at Lawrence Tech, with a focus on small business and underrepresented communities.
SBA officials say the purpose of the competition is to increase support of entrepreneurs and startups in businesses in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
LTU was one of 84 national winners of the accelerator competition, and one of two winners in Michigan. A total of $5.4 million in prize money is being distributed to winners by the SBA.
“The award serves as recognition for LTU’s Centrepolis Accelerator as one of the best incubators in the country,” said Dan Radomski, the accelerator’s executive director. “It demonstrates further evidence that our work to help develop new physical products and technologies and manufacture them domestically is important an providing tangible economic development impact.”
“This year’s cohort of winners emphasizes our commitment to equity,” SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in announcing the awards. “Our awardees have innovative plans to support underserved entrepreneurs, including women, people of color, and individuals from underrepresented geographic areas. The Growth Accelerator prize funds will ensure a wide range of startups and innovators working on cutting edge STEM/R&D ideas have access to technical support and capital.”
Casillas Guzman said winners were chosen based on their proposals for innovative ideas that support entrepreneurs researching and developing STEM-related innovations, with particular emphasis on underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, rural, and veteran entrepreneurs. The prize winners support a broad range of industries including clean energy, supply chain resilience, and infrastructure.
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 research and development, 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.
The Centrepolis Accelerator application for the prize focused on underserved entrepreneurs and small business in manufacturing, advanced materials, Industry 4.0 technologies, and cleantech, climatech, and circular economy technologies.
The Centrepolis Accelerator video for the competition can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/389531199/b1ea75e62b.
The Centrepolis Accelerator fuels the growth of Michigan small manufacturers and hardware entrepreneurs by providing access to key resources such as product development and manufacturing experts, Industry 4.0 technologies, local suppliers, customer and strategic go-to-market partner connections, and funding. It provides focused support and funding to historically underrepresented populations and offers access t more than 30 Experts-in-Residence with an average of 25 years’ experience in product development and manufacturing. It also offers a fully equipped prototyping laboratory with eight 3D printers, scanner, and a machine shop. It also offers services to established small businesses exploring new technologies, not just startups.
The Accelerator has received funding from the New Economy Initiative and Wells Fargo Foundation Innovation Incubator (IN2) specifically to work with underserved and underrepresented businesses led by women, people of color, veterans, people with disabilities, and entrepreneurs located in distressed communities. It is also supported by Advancing Women in Energy, Clean Energy Trust, the Michigan Department of Environment Great Lakes & Energy, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council, Michigan Women Forward, Veteran Bunker Labs, and Women in Cleantech and Sustainability.
The accelerator also provides LTU faculty and students the opportunity to work on research, proof of concept, prototyping, testing, and validation projects for its clients. Projects have included battery cell fabrication and testing, efficacy testing of ultraviolet light devices to kill bacteria and viruses, water desalinization proof of concept, and 5G wireless controller design.
Also, in partnership with Automation Alley, the Troy-based manufacturing technology organization, and Lean Rocket Lab, a Jackson-based manufacturing business incubator, Centrepolis has launched the nation’s first Industry 4.0 Accelerator that globally crowdsources the best Industry 4.0 tech companies in the world and matches them with Michigan manufacturing firms. The Accelerator has attracted 400 applications from 34 different countries and has deployed 16 Industry 4.0 tech demonstrations to date. The program has a $1.3 million seed fund from Automation Alley and $200,000 support from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to help demonstrate and test Industry 4.0 technologies with small to medium sized manufacturers.
More about Centrepolis Accelerator at www.centrepolisaccelerator.com.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 100 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.