Valleys Innovation Council Wins Grant to Fuel Tech Company Growth in Region

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U.S. Department of Commerce Commits Nearly $1 Million to Expand RAMP

The Valleys Innovation Council (VIC) will receive $982,442 in Build to Scale grant funds as part of a $2.08 million three-year project to scale up current accelerator and startup assistance programming through the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP) and to continue VIC’s work growing the regional innovation ecosystem.

The grant, one of only 52 awarded nationally, is part of a total $35 million the U.S. Department of Commerce will deploy to recipients in 36 states to support high growth entrepreneurship. The grant will be directed to specific programming designed to support scalable startups in technology and health and life sciences across the GO Virginia Region 2 service footprint, which spans the New River Valley, Roanoke Valley, Alleghany Highlands, and Greater Lynchburg region.

Dr, Mary Guy Miller, RAMP’s Director, said, “This grant will give us the runway we need to build additional capacity and support the entrepreneurial community at every stage of their development. This is an exciting win and it is my honor to work with everyone who has been involved to continue to build this region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

“Grantees were selected from a competitive pool of more than 600 applications and represent exemplary innovation and entrepreneurship from rural and urban areas across America,” said Dana Gartzke, who is performing the delegated duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development.

The grant funding will allow RAMP to add a second cohort focused on health and life sciences, an emerging industry cluster in the region. In addition, it will be focused on expanding programming in four key areas:

Startup Pathways to respond to the need for more focus on pre-acceleration companies by providing mentor connections, supporting the health science & technology commercialization fellowship with Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, and supporting translational research from Virginia Tech;

Scaling the Accelerator-in-Residence Program by providing support for six in-residence cohorts over the three-year period, adding a program coordinator to support the expansion, increasing access to domain expert mentors, and providing hybrid in-person and virtual courses;

Enhanced Support for Later-Stage Startups through “Exit RAMP” programming designed to provide alumni support through ongoing mentoring, PitchPlus programming to help post-acceleration companies better understand and access capital, and shared workspace; and,
Resource Development and Research through mentor development and training, making connections to regional innovation ecosystem resources, and research connected to tracking the growth and development of the regional innovation economy.

Matching resources and support for this work will be provided by VIC, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, GO Virginia, the Center for Innovative Technology, Virginia Tech, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, the City of Roanoke, Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation, Woods Rogers PLC, Virginia BIO and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, among other program sponsors.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said, “These standout projects will now have the resources to expand their success.”

Dr. Miller added, “Our region certainly deserves the credit for our success in securing this Build to Scale Venture Challenge grant. RAMP is nearing the completion of its fourth cohort having served twenty-four technology start-ups to date. We would not have this opportunity without our outstanding instructors, mentors, and the strong support of our regional municipalities, businesses and the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“Winning the EDA Build to Scale grant in such a national competitive process validates the importance of having an organization like the RBTC/VIC Strategic Alliance focused on strengthening and growing our region’s innovation economy by leveraging this type of federal EDA grant support. The combination of VIC’s research, planning and grant writing abilities, coupled with the execution capabilities of RBTC and RAMP, is helping to create transformational programming that will help grow our region’s innovation economy,” said Greg Feldmann, CEO of the Alliance.