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South Carolina Office of Innovation announces grant awards

Nine organizations receive state funds as part of Startup Fuel Challenge

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The S.C. Department of Commerce Office of Innovation today announced more than $719,000 in grant awards to nine organizations as part of its Startup Fuel Challenge grant series. Tasked with advancing innovation, entrepreneurship and technology-based economic development, this grant program focuses on projects that are outcome-oriented and aim to build stronger entrepreneurs and companies.

“As South Carolina has become a leader in advanced manufacturing, an innovation economy has developed within our borders. To ensure that our industry partners have access to cutting-edge technology and a high-tech workforce, the continued growth of our innovation economy is critical,” said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. “I congratulate these nine awardees and look forward to all they’ll achieve in the years to come.”

Established in 2013, the Office of Innovation announced grant awards in 2014 and 2015. As a result, more than 25 entrepreneurship programs were supported, and more than 6,000 South Carolinians were educated in technology curriculum.

For this round of grant awards, applicants were allowed to request up to $100,000 with the goal of seeding programs and/or services that strategically focus on the technology startup community, a vital element of a healthy innovation ecosystem, as outlined in the South Carolina Innovation Plan. The Startup Fuel Challenge grant series represents one of several active initiatives of the Office of Innovation, including 3Phase, a new statewide resource aimed at assisting research-based companies successfully acquire Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards.

Please see below for the list of Startup Fuel Challenge grant awardees:

Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation – Flagship3 Incubator: $64,895

Flagship3 Incubator is an expansion of the Charleston Digital Corridor's technology hub, which serves high-growth firms. It will be the anchor of Charleston's new Innovation District. The grant will be utilized for the creation of CharlestonPros, a directory of recommended companies and resources providing valuable services specifically to tech companies.

The Fifth T Innovation Group – Conway Innovation Center: $70,000

The Conway Innovation Center is a technology incubator in downtown Conway, S.C. aimed at supporting high-growth companies; it is also part of the Clemson University Technology Villages program.

The Harbor Entrepreneur Center: $75,000

The Harbor Entrepreneur Center creates connections throughout the entrepreneurial community in Mount Pleasant, downtown Charleston and Summerville. Through programs and events, entrepreneurs and business founders are connected with mentors, experts, investors and a peer group of supportive founders.

McNair Center for Entrepreneurism at Columbia College South Carolina Women’s Business Center: $100,000

The South Carolina Women’s Business Center is a hub for catalyzing, wayfinding and growing women's entrepreneurship. The program is built on three main pillars: community, opportunity and knowledge. The approach to serving constituents is unique by reaching women business owners with growth potential.

NEXT Upstate, LLC – NEXT Entrepreneur Training & Skill Development: $60,000

NEXT Upstate, LLC (NEXT) was formed in 2006 as a part-time program at the Greenville Chamber of Commerce to establish high-impact entrepreneurship as a core economic development strategy. In the recent years, NEXT has opened two new facilities, launched MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service and hosted an annual Venture Pitch Conference. NEXT seeks to expand its service offerings to include a new entrepreneur training and a virtual and physical skill development program.

Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation – Knowledge Park Innovation Center, Phase III: $100,000

Phase III of the Knowledge Park Innovation Center (KPIC) is an initiative designed to attract and grow technology intensive businesses, as well as the technology workforce. Through the first two phases of the project, the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation has deployed programs such as the Technology Incubator, the Talent Pipeline Apprenticeship Program, York Technical College’s FabLab and Winthrop University’s CreatorSpace. Phase III seeks to work closely with its partners to incorporate three-dimensional technology and expand its applicability to new products.

South Carolina State University – S.C. State Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub: $50,000

The S.C. State Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub seeks to advance technology in the food and fiber sectors of the agribusiness industry in South Carolina through the deployment of programs that focus on training the next generation of agri-entrepreneurs. The development and support of these entrepreneurs will encourage start-up and innovative activity, advancing the state’s already robust agribusiness industry.

Tri-County Technical College – INSPIRE Lab Project: $100,000

The Tri-County Technical College (TCTC) seeks to create an entrepreneurial education curriculum that supports the INSPIRE Lab project in cultivating a network of small businesses. TCTC will grow entrepreneurs by building the foundation of skills and interests that progresses into a business/idea creation startup program called the INSPIRE Lab. This project is mirrored after the LemonADE Stand program, which was piloted through e-Merge @ the Garage in Anderson.

Venture Carolina – Venture Carolina Center for Entrepreneur Education: $100,000

Venture Carolina educates first-time entrepreneurs and investors on the early-stage venture capital marketplace. By providing resources to entrepreneurs, investors and entrepreneurial support organizations, Venture Carolina helps build capacity in both the supply and demand sides of the marketplace, which accelerates the growth of innovative startups.