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The Innovation Foundation at OSU receives $650,000 grant to expand commercialization expertise

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Media Contact: Harrison Hill | Senior Research Communications Specialist | 405-744-5827 |

The Innovation Foundation at Oklahoma State University has been awarded a $650,000 grant from the United States Economic Development Agency's University Center's program.    

This five-year grant will enable The Innovation Foundation and its Cowboy Innovation Accelerator program to provide commercialization expertise to northeastern Oklahoma by providing commercial grant assistance to startup companies aligned with the state’s three key industry sectors — energy, aerospace & autonomous systems, and biotechnology and life sciences including OSU’s One Health focus.  

 "The Innovation Foundation at OSU focuses on maximizing applied research and the commercialization of innovation. The return allows for further investment in research and development at OSU and across our state,” said Elizabeth Pollard, executive director of The Innovation Foundation. "This new award will allow The Innovation Foundation and its Cowboy Innovation Accelerator the ability to expand its commercial grant assistance to innovation-based startup companies in the northeastern region of Oklahoma.” 

The Innovation Foundation will work closely with business incubators, accelerators, economic development agencies and tribal governments within the six-county region to market the services provided by the Northeast Oklahoma Business Development Hub: Creek County, Pawnee County, Tulsa County, Osage County, Payne County and Washington County. 

“One of the project's primary objectives is to provide innovation-based commercialization assistance to startup companies, entrepreneurs and innovators within disadvantaged communities and tribal land,” said Daniel Will, co-principal investigator and executive director of Cowboy Enterprises, a division of The Innovation Foundation. “The communities make up nearly 90% of the target region.” 

Commercial grants are an essential tool for startup companies, allowing them to progress their proof-of-concept technologies toward commercially viable products or services. 

“These grants commonly take on the form of non-dilutive capital,” said John Nickel, principal investigator and assistant director of Cowboy Enterprises. “Non-dilutive capital is important at early development stages to then be able to attract angel or venture capital equipment investment to scale their startup company.” 

Commercial grants are offered in several ways, with the most common being Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants offered by 11 federal agencies including the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration, among others. 

In 2023, these 11 agencies collectively allocated $3.9 billion in non-dilutive commercialization grants to small businesses across the country, aptly giving them the name “America’s Seed Fund.” 

“Historically though, Oklahoma businesses have struggled to access these funds,” Nickel said. “Oklahoma is ranked 34th among all states in terms of both the number of awards received and total award funding.  

On average, Oklahoma receives just 26 SBIR/STTR awards annually.

The Innovation Foundation aims to change that and increase Oklahoma’s commercialization awards by providing startup companies with resources to help them secure awards including: 

  1. Opportunity awareness — Identifying key opportunities for award applications and funding options; 
  2. Access to a grants management professional — Providing a grants management professional who will help manage the proposal process from idea to submission and into post-award completion; 
  3. Collaborations with OSU — Facilitating effective collaborations between startup companies and subcontracting opportunities with Oklahoma State University’s applied research and development expertise. 

Learn more online about The Innovation Foundation at Oklahoma State University and its initiatives. 

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