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Feb. 4, 2010 Volume 31, No. 18

New program to accelerate job growth and start-ups

Investing in innovation

University committed to helping solve state's economic challenges

Gary Forsee, president of the University of Missouri System, announced last Friday that the University will establish a new three-year, $5 million Enterprise Investment Program to create more jobs across Missouri.

In his annual State of the University speech to the Board of Curators meeting in Kansas City, Forsee underscored the university’s continued commitment to “being part of the solution” to the state’s economic challenges.

“This new fund is designed to help fund start-up companies in Missouri that can move the discoveries of our faculty from the laboratory to the marketplace,” Forsee said. “This will create more high-quality jobs, build the state’s tax revenues and cultivate new revenue streams for the University.”

He said that he anticipates the new Enterprise Investment Program will leverage the University’s expertise in areas that include, but are not limited to, the life sciences, nano science, information technology, engineering, medicine and medical devices, and energy.

“It is imperative that we transform our Missouri economy so we are embracing the high-tech industries of the 21st century,” said David Kerr, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. “An initiative such as the Enterprise Investment Program will merge the best minds in the University System with entrepreneurs at start-up companies across our state, which will create quality jobs for Missourians in the cutting-edge industries of the future.”

Forsee said an outside advisory panel representing, for example, key technology, science and business sectors will be formed to review funding applications and recommend funding awards. This panel’s review process, which will include evaluation of business plans and proposed use of the funds, is slated to begin this summer. The University hopes to make its first awards this fall. 

Eligible start-up companies — including those that operate out of university incubators across the state — must obtain an investment, whether raised or invested directly by the founder or founders, at a level that shows a commitment to the company’s success.  Additional consideration will be given to start-ups with funding available from Small Business Investigative Grants and Small Technology Transfer Grants or matching funds from other sources.   

Though not all of the requirements have been finalized, firms that wish to apply for these funds must meet a series of minimum standards, including:

  • They must have licensed a University of Missouri technology;
  • They must be located and licensed to do business in Missouri, and maintain employees and assets in Missouri;
  • They must be committed to commercializing University of Missouri-owned intellectual property; 
  • They must agree to grant the University an equity interest in the venture with a fair market value equivalent to the amount of the University’s financial investment;
  • They must agree to provide the university with annual financial statements, quarterly progress reports and other appropriate information reasonably requested by the University; and
  • They must accept funding installments based on achievement of agreed-upon milestones.

Despite the financial challenges facing the University during the current recession, Forsee said the University’s continued investment in moving innovation into the marketplace will play an important role in building the state’s economy.

“As the state’s largest public research university, we believe we are an engine for growth in Missouri,” he said. “We are committed to investing in our economic development program across the state.”

The University’s economic development program has risen to a major strategic priority in recent years. The UM System supports 10 research parks, incubators and business accelerators across the state.

Last year the University received more than $308 million in externally sponsored research funding. Faculty research currently generates more than $10 million a year in licensing income — with plans under way to increase licensing revenue to $50 million by 2014.