StartUp West Virginia Final Report
West Virginia’s innovation and entrepreneur economy is stronger thanks to efforts over the past two years by TechConnect West Virginia. TechConnect has been advancing an integrated program designed to expand entrepreneurial and business startup efforts that have helped to create new tech-based jobs in high growth industries in West Virginia. The StartUp West Virginia program was launched in 2012 with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the State of West Virginia.
Anne Barth, executive director of TechConnect, said “We’re showing progress in West Virginia’s innovation economy. It takes time, and it may not yet show up on national rankings, but we’re developing an innovation ecosystem that supports cluster development and growth.
“This report shows what that growth and development look like in West Virginia. It looks like ChemCeption, the nation’s only incubator focused on chemistry-related technologies. It looks like the StartUp WV Manufacturing and Venture programs, which are creating jobs by utilizing in-state resources at RCBI and INNOVA. And, it looks like the Spirit of Innovation Awards, which are helping to showcase leaders in the state’s innovation economy,” Barth added.
StartUp West Virginia focused on several key objectives:
- Prototype and advanced manufacturing services through StartUp WV Manufacturing – to provide design, prototyping and advanced manufacturing support and services to West Virginia firms. A total of 18 companies participated and created and/or retained 35.5 jobs. The program also resulted in one new patent and six additional patent pending applications. The program is a collaborative effort of the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing and TechConnect.
- Start-up venture services through StartUp WV Venture – to provide selected entrepreneurs or small businesses with a range of start-up services including consultation, entrepreneurial training, mentoring, research and product development, subject matter experts and collaborators, legal, financial and accounting assistance, and marketing assistance.Firms assisted included NG Innovations, a winner in the 2012 Shale Gas Innovation Contest, and eTouchSciences, recognized by TechConnect in 2013 as winner of the StartUp Innovation of the Year Award. The program is a collaborative effort of TechConnect and The INNOVA Commercialization Group, an initiative of The West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation.
- Entrepreneur education/advancement services – provides education and learning resources to entrepreneurs and individuals interested in starting tech-based businesses in the state. TechConnect’s efforts under StartUp West Virginia were key to educating and engaging more than 2,800 individuals through conferences and special cluster-development events.
Altogether, TechConnect provided 146 companies with a variety of services (operational assistance, startup financing, prototyping, advanced manufacturing expertise, and more) and assisted in networking/outreach for them as part of the StartUp West Virginia initiative.
And, thanks to the resources provided to TechConnect, the program also aided in producing these related benefits:
- Collaborated on programs with 13 colleges and universities that focused on research, tech transfer, and commercialization;
- Launched the Spirit of Innovation Awards in 2013 in order to celebrate innovation success stories and demonstrate that in West Virginia, the innovation economy is not just a concept—it’s a reality. Thirty-three nominations were submitted for the five award categories in the program, which received backing from the private sector, state government, and higher education institutions.
- Created “Innovation & Entrepreneurship Day at the State Capitol” to promote innovation companies, programs and organizations, and showcase their important role in the state’s economy.
- Launched the Women & Technology Conference series, designed to inspire and support women involved in all aspects of technology, including science and engineering education and research, the private sector, business development, governmental agencies, and entrepreneurship.
The program also allowed TechConnect to provide support and assistance to these programs:
- Helped to launch ChemCeption, the nation’s only chemistry-based business incubator, which is another step in further innovation development of the human capital long associated with the region’s extensive chemical industry;
- Provided a foundation for the launch of the $13.1 million West Virginia Capital Access Program (WVCAP), ranked second in the nation by the U.S. Treasury Department; and
- Supported creation of the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, which led to 488 percent growth in state funding for research.
- Helped support the annual Bioscience Summit held by the Bioscience Association of West Virginia.
Finally, TechConnectWV spearheaded the development of an innovation coalition across the state that now numbers close to 200 entities, including development organizations, small businesses, service providers, startups, and agencies. This coalition aligns these entities in a common effort to encourage greater entrepreneurial activity, direct startups to available services and support programs, help leverage risk capital and investment funding opportunities, and share information and networking opportunities.