Murray State University and its partners have been chosen by the KY Innovation office to establish a regional hub to serve, attract and cultivate more innovative entrepreneurs and startup businesses in west Kentucky.
Murray State’s Center for Telecommunications Systems Management (CTSM) will partner with the Technology Council of West Kentucky (TCWK) and entrepreneurship service providers throughout the area to launch a Regional Innovation for Startups and Entrepreneurs (RISE) hub. RISE hubs are part of KY Innovation’s 120-county effort to modernize Kentucky’s support for high-tech, high-growth-potential businesses.
West Kentucky’s consortium, which includes partners in Murray, Henderson, Hopkinsville, Madisonville and Paducah, will build on the successes of area tech startups, focus on regional collaboration to support early stage businesses through capitalization and commercialization, and develop the region’s culture for supporting entrepreneurs and innovative startups.
The west Kentucky innovation hub will receive $428,684 in state funding, representing a nearly threefold increase in annual funding over the prior Kentucky Innovation Network office model.
“We are focusing Kentucky’s resources to support entrepreneurs who create new products, launch and grow businesses and positively impact our overall economy,” Gov. Bevin said. “The western region of Kentucky is vital to KY Innovation’s statewide strategy to serve entrepreneurs. KY Innovation’s investment in west Kentucky’s RISE hub will enable it to better leverage the exceptional businesses, universities and workforce already in the area and will help create an environment where they can flourish.”
KY Innovation, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s initiative supporting entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses, in August called for proposals to lead RISE hubs. RISE fosters partnerships between universities, established companies and industry sectors, entrepreneurs, business accelerator and incubator programs and various other public and private entities.
Brian Mefford, KY Innovation executive director, said the hub could change the trajectory of the region’s innovation economy.
“The west Kentucky proposal incorporates the region’s proven assets, both in the stakeholders it represents and its focus on technology startups,” Mefford said. “This presents a great opportunity to encourage entrepreneurs who work on the forefront of a sector that will become even more vital in years to come. Murray State’s CTSM also recruited ideal partners in its local service providers through the Technology Council of West Kentucky, a group whose very formation is both forward looking and entrepreneurial by nature. The KY Innovation team values that kind of foresight in leadership and looks forward to the important work we will do together.”
Jason Rainey, deputy executive director of KY Innovation, said the proposal embraced the concept of maximizing regional strengths.
“West Kentucky is an integral part of the state’s innovation efforts and this program will elevate that role,” Rainey said. “This RISE hub will drive even greater innovation in information technology and industry. It positions the region to take a significant step forward in the number of quality startup businesses that scale up, produce jobs and positively impact the economy.”
Support organizations for west Kentucky’s RISE hub are located in Paducah, Hopkinsville, Madisonville, Henderson and Murray. In addition to Murray State CTSM and Small Business Development Center and TCWK, the Purchase and Pennyrile Area Development Districts will also act as lead partners. The TCWK, which receives administrative support from Murray State, is a non-profit whose membership includes entrepreneurship service providers, public K-12 schools and community colleges, leading private companies in technology, healthcare, engineering and financial services and utilities.
Michael Ramage, Murray State CTSM director, said the west Kentucky RISE strategy addresses challenges of a rapidly changing economy.
“West Kentucky has a broad array of resources for startups, but we recognize this is a pivotal opportunity to enhance and share those strengths in order to build our regional ecosystem,” Ramage said. “Clustering resources around the information technology sector allows us to connect startups to expert services, capital and tools they require to succeed. We will now be able to fully support and attract many more entrepreneurs who are prepared to solve the problems of the 21st century from the idea stage to growth and sustainability.”
The west Kentucky RISE model aims to move startup companies through tech commercialization while providing extra resources for local initiatives, regional collaboration and the talent necessary to transition companies to the next stage. Consortium leaders identified the following objectives: developing entrepreneurship culture, regional coordination of local entrepreneurship efforts, fostering growth and development of technology and innovation, and provision of enhanced entrepreneurial services such as startup counseling.
Partners will provide businesses and entrepreneurs a full range of services including business planning, investor-financing readiness evaluations, software development vetting, and advising on the incorporation process, tax and permitting obligations, IP protections and partnership agreements.
Communities involved will perform:
- The First 100: Research-backed effort to identify “first 100” entrepreneurs in five communities within six months.
- Asset mapping: Within the first 90 days, each community will conduct a work session to identify its local technology and entrepreneurial assets in infrastructure, non-governmental institutions related to entrepreneurship, professional support, finance, tools/space and talent.
- Talent Development: All five communities will create a talent development program for implementation during the 2018-2019 school year.
KY Innovation will announce more RISE awardees in the coming weeks. Mefford said the office plans to invest more than $4.9 million in regional efforts, more than doubling funding to the offices of the former Kentucky Innovation Network.
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