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ISU named finalist for Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Award

Iowa State University

Iowa State University (ISU) has been named as one of six finalists for the Innovation & Economic Prosperity (IEP) University Awards.

The finalists — Colorado State University, Iowa State University, Montana State University, the University of New Mexico, North Carolina State University and the University of Pittsburgh — are competing for four different awards that recognize different components of university economic engagement.

ISU is a finalist for the IEP Innovation award, recognizing exemplary initiatives spurring innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology-based economic development.

ISU is also a finalist for The IEP Economic Engagement Connections award, the top prize in the awards competition, recognizing overall excellence and leveraging across all three award categories. All six category finalists are contenders for the Connections award.

The winners will be announced at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) annual meeting, held November 11-13 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

“We applaud this year’s Innovation and Economic Prosperity University Awards finalists for their exceptional contributions to regional economic engagement,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “Economic development and community engagement cut to the heart of public universities’ mission to advance the communities they serve. We’re delighted to spotlight the work of the finalists so other institutions can build upon the example they have set.”

To be eligible for an IEP award, an institution must first earn the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation from APLU. To receive that designation, universities conduct a rigorous self-study of their economic engagement activities which includes input from external stakeholders.

“Iowa State University has created a vibrant startup culture at the institution. Innovations at ISU span a broad range of areas – from technology to food production, material sciences to advanced manufacturing,” read the announcement. “After the university identified a need to bolster its innovation infrastructure in 2016, it launched its Startup Factory program. The effort is an intense yearlong accelerator program aimed at helping budding startups take off. It also supports entrepreneurs with programming covering business legal structures, design thinking, risk management, and marketing, among other subject areas. What’s more, entrepreneurs enrolled in the program have access to a mentoring network that provides board meeting simulations that help the participants gain experience providing reports on their progress and being held accountable for meeting challenging deadlines.”


ISU named finalist for Innovation & Economic Prosperity University Award | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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