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ODU to Share in $1 Million Entrepreneurship Grant from U.S. Commerce Department

Old Dominion University is part of a coalition of Virginia schools that has won a $1 million award from the U.S. Department of Commerce, aimed at creating a sustainable growth model that encourages entrepreneurship.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank announced the award on Wednesday, Sept. 19, to the Virginia schools chosen as winners of the Commerce Department's i6 Challenge, a national competition to advance innovative product development, increase the commercialization of ideas into viable companies, spur startups and create jobs.

The joint project, known as the Virginia Innovation Partnership, will receive $1 million in federal funding over two years, with additional matching funds provided by corporate participants, university partners and other entities.

This innovative work to leverage public-private partnerships has been done through the ODU Business Gateway since its inception in 2010. Jerry Robertson, associate vice president and executive director of the Business Gateway, said this type of investment is a prime example of why the Gateway was created.

"When our universities find opportunities to pool our resources with government and private-sector partners, it's a great way to spur innovation and help maintain the commonwealth of Virginia's stellar reputation as a great place to do business," Robertson said.

Along with Old Dominion, other Virginia schools that are part of the winning bid include the University of Virginia, Piedmont Virginia Community College, George Mason University, Hampton University, Mountain Empire Community College, New River Community College, Norfolk State University, Northern Virginia Community College, Radford University, Tidewater Community College, the University of Richmond, the University of Virginia's College at Wise, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.

The goal is to create a sustainable growth model that allows innovative projects to be developed into new prototypes and businesses.

Each year, the Virginia Innovation Partnership will fund 20 projects at the $40,000 to $80,000 level, with the expectation of attracting significant follow-on funding and forming new Virginia companies.

Robertson said initiatives involving ODU research in areas like medical modeling and simulation and bioelectrics, where the university is conducting cutting-edge, collaborative research with academic and industry partners already, could be ideal targets for these investments.

According to the Department of Commerce, estimates from the Virginia Innovation Partnership show this grant program will result in 140 new jobs over two years, 640 jobs after four years and 2,000 new jobs after eight years.

Grants were also awarded to projects in California, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Wisconsin.

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