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New program seeks to boost Minnesota’s innovation economy

June 13, 2019

Funds for entrepreneurial training, technical assistance with R&D, and matching grants for innovative small businesses are among the items now part of Minnesota’s economic development toolkit thanks to new funding in the state’s recently signed FY 2020 biennial budget. Under the approved budget, Launch Minnesota will receive $2.5 million in each of the next two fiscal years to support innovation and entrepreneurship. Originally called the Minnesota Innovation Collaborative in Gov. Tim Walz’s proposed budget, the suite of Launch Minnesota programs will be administered by the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development. The program includes four types of grants: funds for universities and nonprofits offering entrepreneurial training; funds for startups in need of R&D and other types of technical assistance; funds to alleviate housing and/or childcare expenses for entrepreneurs; and, matching funds for SBIR/STTR Phase II awardees.

  • Entrepreneur Education: Grants are available to institutions of higher education and other organizations to provide educational programming to entrepreneurs and provide outreach to and collaboration with businesses, federal and state agencies, institutions of higher education, trade associations, and other organizations working to advance innovative, high technology businesses throughout Minnesota.
  • Innovation Grants: Grantees can now receive $35,000 once per year for R&D, direct business, or technical assistance services from colleges, universities, or nonprofit organizations. Eligible activities include but are not limited to proof of concept activities, intellectual property protection, prototype designs and production, and commercial feasibility.
  • Entrepreneurial Support: Grantees can receive up to $7,500 for housing or childcare expenses, but not for health insurance. The funds are meant to help alleviate some non-business expenses for entrepreneurs.
  • SBIR Matching: Awardees of a federal Phase II SBIR/STTR grant are eligible to receive up to $50,000 in matching grants from the state.

Other items receiving funding in the state’s FY 2020-2021 biennial budget include:

  • $40.5 million over the biennium for the Office of Broadband within DEED, with the vast majority going to the state’s Border to Border program, an effort to expand broadband in the state’s rural areas.
  • $10 million in funding for each of tax years 2019 and 2021 for the state’s Angel Investment Tax Credit (AITC). Furthermore, the state lowered the investment threshold for qualified investments in greater Minnesota, veteran- , minority-, or women-owned businesses from $10,000 to $7,500.
  • $2.0 million over the biennium for the Emerging Entrepreneurs Fund. This program provides loan capital for businesses that are owned and operated by minorities, low-income persons, women, veterans and/or persons with disabilities.
  • $1.7 million over the biennium for the Sci-Techsperience program, which must fund internships for at least 200 students, of whom no more than 15 percent may be graduate students. This program, managed by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA), offers paid internships to STEM undergraduate students at for-profit Minnesota companies. The program covers up to half of the intern’s wages and is capped at $3,000.
  • $900,000 over the biennium for Enterprise Minnesota, the state’s MEP Center.

More information on the bills passed as part of Minnesota’s special session can be found on the state legislature’s website.


Minnesotastate tbed, state budget