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$6 million gift to ISU from Boeing will help fund Innovation Center

Iowa State University has received a $6 million commitment from Boeing that will help finance the university’s Student Innovation Center and support undergraduate engineering students interested in doing research.

A large portion of Boeing’s gift will support the construction of the Student Innovation Center, that will serve as a hub on campus for hands-on projects where students can collaborate across a wide range of disciplines.

With construction funded through the Iowa legislature and private support, the Student Innovation Center will be a flagship facility elevating Iowa State’s commitment to interdisciplinary, experiential learning.

The 140,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open in spring 2020. Nearly half of the funding necessary for the $84 million project will come from state appropriations, with the remainder of the balance made up of private giving, according to a January university news release.

Students from all of Iowa State’s undergraduate colleges will be able to use the Student Innovation Center, which will provide space for individual and group activities and capstone projects, and for classes and student clubs involved in hands-on learning.

“The foresight Boeing has shown through its long-standing support of hands-on collaborative learning environments across campus and educational opportunities beyond the classroom is a testament to its innovative focus as a company and its commitment to ensuring engineering students are well-prepared for early success in their careers,” said Sarah A. Rajala, James L. and Katherine S. Melsa Dean of Engineering at Iowa State University, in an announcement.

In addition, part of Boeing’s $6 million commitment will provide financial support for engineering students seeking to broaden and enhance their educational experience by participating in undergraduate research.

$6 million gift to ISU from Boeing will help fund Innovation Center | 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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