is helping seven startup North Carolina ventures move closer to commercialization of products with $225,000 in grants.
NC IDEA, which is the acronym for North Carolina Innovative Development for Economic Advancement, launched the program with the intent of helping the companies with funding between startup and venture capital - the so-called "valley of death".
"NC IDEA is trying to bridge the gap we have seen between research and innovation and commercialization," said Lister Delgado, vice president of NC IDEA. "In this region, there are a tremendous number of ideas generated and there is a lack of capital. We wanted to do something."
NC IDEA, which was known as MCNC Ventures until it took on a new name in April of last year, is targeting economic development across the state. MCNC Ventures was part of the former Microelectronics Center of North Carolina before it was split into two business units. NC IDEA operates a venture capital fund as well and has made investments in 12 early stage ventures.
The new funding comes in the forms of grants. NC IDEA is not taking an ownership stake in the seven companies.
The seven companies are: CardioVascular Resonances; Illuminus; InsituTec; ZumaTek; DeltaSphere; ImagineOptix and TransLoc.
NC IDEA has set aside $450,000 a year for the program. Grants are available up to $50,000. The minimum is $7,500.
The grants are not for research but for business-related activities such as building prototypes, preparing market analysis or business plans, or protecting intellectual property, Delgado said. The money can't be used to pay salaries, he added.
Unlike a new state program launched by the General Assembly, matching funds from another source are not required to receive an NC IDEA grant.
More funding is planned, Delgado added. "These are the top seven companies; there were several others that in six months or so in the future will be ready," Delgado said. "This gives you an idea of the amount of innovation there is in this area - and the need for capital to grow."
In all, 68 companies applied for the first round of grants. NC IDEA will solicit another round of applications this fall.
"The mission of NC IDEA is to create jobs through commercialization of research innovation," said David Rizzo, chief executive officer of NC IDEA, in a statement. "The grant program is a catalyst for technological breakthroughs developed in North Carolina that have a significant potential to successfully transition into commercially viable high-growth enterprises."
NC IDEA will also provide mentoring services and work with other partners (Council for Entrepreneurial Development, North Carolina Technology Association, the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center and Southeast TechInventures) to direct assistance to the grant recipients. For example, NC IDEA is paying most of the costs for members of those seven companies and several others to participate in the CED's FastTrac training program.
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