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USF Connect to give new grant to start-ups


Research and technology start-ups coming out of the university may soon be provided with as much as $50,000, due to a new program launched by USF Connect.

USF Connect recently created the Seed Capital Accelerator Program to supply start-up companies in USF’s Tampa Bay Technology Incubator (TBTI) with the funds they need to get off the ground.

Valerie McDevitt, assistant vice president for USF Patents and Licensing, said the purpose of the program is to provide a relatively small amount of money for a project that would be a short-term investment.

“It’s a small amount of money that would help them to get a prototype done or to get to the next step to where they can receive additional types of funding,” McDevitt said.

The award, which will be funded by the Research Foundation and the Patents Office, is meant to provide funds for a year or less to several of the 51 start-up companies in the incubator.

McDevitt said the award will be in the form of a convertible debt structure, which means the award amount could be a short-term loan, but the university will have the ability to turn the award loan into stake in the company.

According to Wendy Plant, program manager for USF Connect, the companies currently in TBTI with technologies coming out of the university account for 62 percent of the incubator.

She said more than half of those companies are attempting to commercialize biomedical technology created in labs at the university.

“They’re scientists, even some from Moffitt, that are doing drug discovery,” Plant said. “There is one group that is trying to manufacture an oral form of an IV therapy that has been proven to be effective.”

Located in USF Research Park, TBTI offers start-ups shared offices, lab space and more than
$1 million in lab equipment.

“One company that’s graduated from the university and the incubator does 3D printing technology and has really taken off,” Plant said. “We have a company in the incubator now that creates software to be used in schools that monitors students’ progress toward their graduation, so we have quite a range of things.”

Partners in the company will be asked to submit applications describing what the loan will be used for and how it will impact their project.

“We’ll want to know what technologies you are talking about, what you are trying to do here and what the objective is at the end of the day,” McDevitt said.

First submissions are due Nov. 15 and the Seed Capital Accelerator Committee is expected to meet by the end of December to decide which start-up companies should receive the loans.

McDevitt said the Patents Office and TBTI hope to have the money disbursed to the companies by January.

“In business, we have what’s called the valley of death between the early stages of a start-up where they just need a little bit of funding, and when they want to get off the ground and need venture capital,” Plant said. “There’s that gap where they need funding just to get to that next level. What we are hoping the Seed Capital Accelerator Program will do is allow these companies to get through that gap.”

USF Connect will be opening a new student incubator in mid-November, which will offer students the opportunity to use similar shared space and equipment for their ventures.