UW System Taps WEDC’s Capital Catalyst Program to Fuel Business Creation

In support of WEDC’s mission to increase the number of successful business startups in Wisconsin, WEDC created the Capital Catalyst Program to make seed grants available to organizations and communities dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship. The program provides matching grants to seed funds managed by local entities to provide capital to high growth startup companies. This provides an opportunity to make funds available at the earliest stages of formation where private investment is most scarce.

These locally-managed funds may offer grants, loans or investments in technology-based startups or early stage companies; and innovative small businesses developing new technologies.  Loan repayments and returns on investment stay with the local organization to fund additional startups and create a supportive environment for area entrepreneurs.

Since the inception of the program, WEDC has teamed with several communities and organizations to improve and promote business development by increasing access to capital. An exciting new collaborative opportunity emerged with the creation of the UW System’s Incentive Grant program, which will deploy $22.5 million over two years to fund a variety of initiatives focused on economic development, workforce development and access to higher education.

In recognition of the critical need to advance UW ideas and technologies through commercialization, business formation and job creation, UW System and WEDC officials partnered on a proposal to pair $1 million of UW Incentive Grant funding with a total of $1 million of Capital Catalyst funds over two years. This will establish a seed fund managed by UW-Extension that will provide competitive grants to businesses commercializing technologies and ideas emanating from campuses statewide.

“The world-class research and education at UW System institutions results in groundbreaking innovations and creative ideas, which have enormous commercialization potential,” said Lisa Johnson, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at WEDC. “This new fund will provide the capital necessary to assist new and existing Wisconsin businesses in successfully taking these technologies and ideas to market, and creating future high-quality job opportunities in our state.”

The commercialization seed fund was one of 12 innovative proposals selected to receive UW Incentive Grant program funding to spur economic and workforce development statewide.

“We see this as an important strategy in more effectively aligning UW campus collaborations with economic and workforce development initiatives wherever they occur in the state,” said Regent Tim Higgins, chair of the Board of Regents’ Research, Economic Development and Innovation Committee. “The collaboration between WEDC and the UW System will provide direct benefit to businesses and communities statewide, and create new and expanded opportunities for students and faculty.”

The grants selected for UW Incentive Grant funding were chosen from a total of 56 entries from UW institutions statewide. These one-time funds will be used in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 for innovative and sustainable economic development projects.

Incentive Grant recipients (and award amounts) include:

UW-Eau Claire – Responsible Mining Initiative: Building an Educated STEM Workforce for the Natural Resource Industry ($451,317)

UW-Eau Claire, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Oshkosh – Addressing the Nursing Shortage: Statewide Initiative to Increase Nursing Program Faculty, Expand Student Enrollment, and Enhance Workforce Development ($3,218,703)

UW-Extension – Capital Catalyst Commercialization Seed Fund with WEDC Match ($1 million)

UW-La Crosse – Expansion of Statistical Consulting Center to Serve Business Needs ($126,248)

UW-Madison – Igniter—An Engine for Technology Commercialization ($2.4 million)

UW-Milwaukee, UW-Parkside and UW-Whitewater – Research and Training Center for Commercialization of Intensive Aquaculture & Aquaponics ($2,452,500)

UW-Milwaukee and UW-Parkside – SE Wisconsin Applied Chemistry Center of Excellence ($2,998,800)

UW-Milwaukee and UW-Whitewater – Water Technology Accelerator ($3 million)

UW-Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay – Collaborative Engineering Technology Program ($1,892,000)

UW-Stevens Point –

  • Collaborative Research Facility for Development and Commercialization of Biorefinery Technologies: Cellulose Pilot & Processing Lab ($2,837,596)
  • Economic Development Through Innovation in Specialty Papers, Packaging, and Converting ($1,445,336)

UW-Stevens Point and UW-Extension – Aquaculture Business Incubator and Aquaponic Innovation Center: Economic Development for Emerging Agricultural Industries ($677,500).

(January 2014)