UofL wins grant to help women, minority scientists become entrepreneurs

By Mark Hebert

The University of Louisville, Indiana University and Missouri University of Science and Technology will be helping women and minority faculty, staff and student innovators improve their success in securing money to commercialize their inventions.

The National Science Foundation has awarded a $225,000 grant for a pilot program, called AWARE: ACCESS: Building Innovation Capacity through Diversity. UofL is the lead institution for the grant.

“Women and underrepresented researchers have great ideas that need to be translated into the marketplace” said Rob Keynton, UofL’s director of research initiatives and lead investigator of the program. “Unfortunately, these innovators have had limited success in securing federal business grants and other funding. We hope to change that with this new program.”

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, woman-and minority-owned small businesses receive less than 16 percent of federal grants (SBIR/STTR) to move their research and technology to the marketplace.

“Increasing the participation of women, African-Americans, and other underrepresented groups in the technology industry is an important social and economic challenge in America. AWARE: ACCESS will help lay the foundation for making significant progress on this issue,” said Malcolm Townes, associate director of Missouri S&T’s Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development.

The pilot program has four major goals for women and minority academic innovators:

  • Identify, engage and mentor them to pursue entrepreneurship as a career
  • Expand educational, experiential and networking opportunities
  • Enhance their competitiveness for federal grant applications
  • Create a regional ecosystem for entrepreneurs and sharing of best practices by UofL, IU and Missouri S&T

 

“We are thrilled to help Midwestern female and minority entrepreneurs become better equipped to compete for federal funding through this regional grant from the NSF,” said Padma Portonovo, program manager at the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

NSF Program Director Jesus Soriano said “The National Science Foundation recognizes the tremendous potential of women and underrepresented groups in innovation. We hope the AWARE: ACCESS program will enable more underserved groups to achieve their technological and commercial potential and enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering discovery.”

The chairperson of the Speed School Diversity Committee, Keynton is a professor of the Bioengineering Department and the Lutz Endowed Chair of Biomechanical Devices.

AWARE: ACCESS is an acronym for Advancing Women And UnderRepresented Entrepreneurs: ACCelerating Entrepreneurial SucceSS.