LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — September 26, 2017 — The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that Winrock International has been awarded a $279,202 grant for the Delta Innovation Fund (I-Fund) to create early-stage seed capital funds through the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.
“The Trump Administration is committed to strengthening U.S. production and exports, which are essential to our nation’s economic growth,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These projects will enable entrepreneurs in communities across the United states to start new businesses, manufacture innovative products, and export them throughout the world — increasing America’s global competitiveness.”
The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), leads the Regional Innovation Strategies Program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. The program is authorized through the America COMPETES reauthorization Act of 2010, and has received dedicated appropriations since FY2014.
“This is great news for Arkansas,” said U.S. Senator John Boozman. “This Department of Commerce initiative will benefit communities across our state by supporting innovative technologies and new businesses while helping attract and retain home-grown talent. I was pleased to support Winrock International’s proposal for this funding and am grateful for the organization’s commitment to entrepreneurship and job creation.”
This grant provides funding for technical assistance and operational costs that support the feasibility, planning, formation, launch, or scale of cluster-based seed funds that will invest their capital in innovation-based startups with high growth potential.
“This announcement will encourage more investment in our state,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. “This much-needed early stage seed capital is further proof that Arkansas’s bold approach to supporting the technology sector shows we are driving innovation and creating jobs today and creating a lasting impact for the state in the decades ahead. I congratulate Winrock International’s Delta I-Fund and the Innovation Hub on this important breakthrough.”
The Innovation Hub at Winrock International launched the original I-Fund in 2016 with an initial investment of $1 million from IberiaBank, and this year the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) expanded that effort with an additional investment of $1 million to create the Delta I-Fund, a first-of-its-kind investment fund for Delta startups. The fund targets entrepreneurs across the eight-state Delta region and provides key training, mentoring and capital investment to help them build businesses. Through Winrock’s Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, the Delta I-Fund works in underserved communities to develop key partnerships among public, private and university programs, and create jobs and businesses in areas that need the opportunities most.
“Winrock is proud of the trust that the U.S. Department of Commerce has placed on us to help drive economic growth and job creation in Arkansas,” says Winrock International President and CEO Rodney Ferguson. “There is nothing more important in Arkansas, or the region, than spurring the growth of good-paying, secure jobs. We’re proud to partner with the region’s smart companies, savvy investors, and forward-thinking leaders to ensure the success of this effort.
Forty-two organizations — including nonprofits, institutions of higher education, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations from 28 states — received over $17 million to create and expand cluster-focused, proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and early-stage seed capital funds through RIS.
This fourth cohort of Regional Innovation Strategies awardees expands the RIS portfolio to eight new states and continues to build vibrant regional entrepreneurial economies. The awardees were selected from a pool of more than 217 applicants.