LAWRENCE — The Bioscience & Technology Business Center at the University of Kansas has earned a major federal grant for its role as a business accelerator and economic engine for northeast Kansas.
The BTBC at KU has been awarded $50,000 by the U.S. Small Business Administration through the agency’s inaugural Growth Accelerator Fund competition, which is designed to support the development of outstanding business accelerators, incubators and other entrepreneurial ecosystem models that are playing major roles in their region.
The BTBC was one of only 50 winners from a pool of more than 800 applicants nationally — or put another way, only one of every 16 applicants was awarded funding. In total, the competition distributed $2.5 million to the winners.
“This was an extremely competitive process, as evidenced by the number of applicants and the criteria set forth by the SBA,” said G.R. Underwood, president and chief operating officer of the BTBC at KU. “For us to be named a recipient of this funding from a high-profile organization like the SBA is a tremendous external validation of the BTBC and our role as an engine of economic growth. We’re clearly succeeding in our mission to grow the high-tech and bioscience industries in northeast Kansas to create quality jobs that increase the local tax base and create wealth in the community.”
The SBA prize stipulations allow recipients to use the funding for a variety of purposes. Underwood said the BTBC would utilize the prize money to create a fund to provide capital to KU spinouts, startups needing capital to scale and KU student-created businesses based on intellectual property.
“Compared to the coasts, the Midwest is can be a tough place to raise capital,” Underwood said. “This prize money will enable us to better help companies and entrepreneurs with that challenge.”
SBA judges considered each applicant’s stated mission, founding team members and business goals, among other core components. The panel gave particular attention to applicants that fill geographic gaps in the accelerator and entrepreneurial ecosystem space – i.e., applicants in parts of the country with limited sources of venture and investment capital.
The BTBC is composed of three separate facilities – two in Lawrence and one at KU Medical Center – totaling 85,000 square feet of specialized laboratory and office space. The BTBC currently has 31 tenant companies, ranging from KU startups to midsize companies to Fortune 500 companies, totaling 131 employees with a combined payroll of nearly $7.8 million. The BTBC has also “graduated” three tenants to larger facilities. Earlier this summer, the BTBC opened the Phase II expansion of its Main Facility on KU’s west campus. The expansion doubled the size of that facility.
The BTBC offers tenants 1) infrastructure in which to commercialize local university research; business services to help these and other startups scale their operations; and 3) access to university, government, and business partners and resources.
This is the second major national recognition for the BTBC in two years. In 2013, the BTBC was named one of four national finalists for outstanding community economic development collaboration by the University Economic Development Association, a national organization representing higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders.
“The BTBC began in 2011 with a half-dozen tenant companies and about 11,000 square feet of space,” Underwood said. “It’s incredible to think that only three years later, we have 31 tenants in three buildings. We’ll continue looking for new ways to create companies, recruit existing companies to the region, and commercialize KU technologies into new products and cures.”
The SBA’s announcement is available at http://www.sba.gov/about-sba/sba_newsroom/press_releases_media_advisories.