Sep 19, 2012    #118
Contact: Wandra Brooks Green

UMKC wins $1 million federal i6 Challenge grant for IT Startups

Grant will fund collaborative 'Proof of Concept' center for KC region

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The U.S. Department of Commerce today announced that a regional collaboration led by the Innovation Center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has been awarded a $1 million grant to create a "Digital Sandbox" to spur development of IT-related start-up businesses in the Kansas City region.

The UMKC-led consortium is one of the winning teams in the third round of the federal i6 Challenge. The i6 Challenge is a multi-agency federal grant that encourages and rewards innovative, groundbreaking ideas that accelerate technology commercialization, new venture formation, job creation, and economic growth across the United States. The awards are highly competitive and only one award is made in each of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Agency's multi-state regions.

Consortium leaders anticipate that the Digital Sandbox will generate a minimum of 10 new high-growth companies with either follow-on funding or at least $1 million in revenue each within two years of the launch.

Details on eligibility and the application process for the Digital Sandbox will be announced soon.

"This grant reinforces Kansas City's position as 'America's Most Entrepreneurial City' and the key role that the Innovation Center and UMKC play in achieving and maintaining that status," said Leo E. Morton, UMKC Chancellor. "We are extremely grateful to the local private sector partners who are contributing financial and personnel resources to this important effort, including Sprint, Hallmark, VML, RareWire, Cerner and UMB. We are also extremely grateful for $500,000 in concept support from the State of Missouri through the Missouri Technology Corporation, which has been a critical component of this effort."

In the i6 Challenge, winning teams are awarded up to $1 million each for innovative proposals to create and expand Proof of Concept Centers and create a network of experts to support innovators and researchers; spur sustainable startups; expand access to capital to fuel growth; connect mentors and advisors to entrepreneurs; and spark job creation.

The Digital Sandbox will create a new process for commercialization in Kansas City by clustering digital innovation development into a central hub and providing the needed technology infrastructure. The center will offer a central connection point for large businesses, emerging enterprises and entrepreneurs to jointly develop new products and services.

The Sandbox addresses two immediate gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem: connecting large industry to the entrepreneurial and university research networks; and providing access to early-stage proof of concept support.

Early stage proof of concept development will be supported in large part by a $500,000 grant from the Missouri Technology Corporation (MTC). The MTC, housed within the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED), is a non-profit corporation charged by law with promoting entrepreneurship in Missouri and fostering the growth of emerging high-tech companies.

"MTC is excited to collaborate with the UMKC Innovation Center and other key public and private sector businesses in the Kansas City region to support the development of infrastructure that will accelerate the launch and growth of high-tech, high-growth start-up companies," said Jason Hall, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. "With legacies like those of Ewing Kauffman and Henry Bloch, Kansas City has an incredible entrepreneurial history. We are proud to be partners in this new chapter of that rich legacy."

Connecting industry and university to early stage companies is accomplished through a "Sandbox" concept. The Innovation Center will invite players from academia, large corporate research & development centers, entrepreneurs and business development organizations to "play in the Sandbox" together to accelerate the commercialization of new ideas and promote job growth in the region.

The Sandbox was developed through the collaboration of partners such as: corporate (Sprint, Hallmark, UMB, VML, Cerner, RareWire, SparkLabKC, Time Warner Cable), academic (UMKC, University of Kansas), nonprofit (Enterprise Center of Johnson County; Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute; Union Station, Inc.; KCNext), public (Missouri Technology Corporation, Mayors' Bistate Innovation Team, Economic Development Corp. of KC) and philanthropic (Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation). The Sandbox will have an advisory and review board of organizations like these representing a broad cross section of the Kansas City community. The UMKC Innovation Center will manage the daily operations.

About the UMKC Innovation Center

From whiteboard to boardroom, the UMKC Innovation Center partners with the university and the community to spark entrepreneurial efforts within our region and across the country. With a suite of high-impact programs, the center helps emerging and existing business owners hone their business basics, evaluate commercialization opportunities, and connect with the right resources at the right time. Innovation Center programs include the Small Business & Technology Development Center, Procurement Technical Assistance Center, U.S.SourceLink, KCSourceLink, Artist INC KC, and MOSourceLink.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.


This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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