East Carolina University and the Durham-based Investors’ Circle (IC) have received federal grants of $500,000 and $250,000, respectively, to help promote entrepreneurship development programs.

First Flight Venture Center, a Research Triangle Park science and technology incubator for entrepreneurs, was also awarded a $450,000 challenge grant from the funding program operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The grants are among 35 distributing some $15 million through 19 states from the commerce department’s Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program.

ECU’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development will receive nearly $500,000 for a project to accelerate and expand commercialization, leading to a broader innovation and technology network in eastern North Carolina.

The project “eNC Innovates!” was selected from a pool of more than 215 applicants serving urban and rural areas across the United States. ECU’s project is intended to provide a roadmap of the science, technology and innovation needs of advanced manufacturing organizations (industrial/military) with the intent of rapidly advancing technology and manufacturing readiness levels.

The project will encourage, support and foster entrepreneurship and new business/venture creation. “We’re excited that this grant will allow us to form talented, multidisciplinary teams of ECU students and faculty mentors to discover new entrepreneurial opportunities and address innovation challenges for our regional partners,” said Joe Gaines, director of industry and economic development at ECU.

The IC grant is actually going to a Colorado program. It will support the organization’s Colorado Seed-Stage Impact Fund (“IC CO Fund”) initiative, which will evaluate the feasibility of a Colorado-focused fund that leverages the infrastructure of IC’s existing series of pooled funds.

“If successful, we can apply this model to additional markets around the country,” said IC’s executive director, Bonny Moellenbrock. “We are grateful for the opportunity to increase the flow of capital to innovative entrepreneurs that are addressing social or environmental challenges and growing their local economies.”

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center