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Universities Build Diverse Partnerships to Fund Startups

December 03, 2015

In the face of declining state funding and drawn-out budget negotiations, universities are moving beyond traditional budget procedures to secure funding for their economic development activities. Over the past few months, several universities have leveraged new sources of public and private funds to establish seed funds for university technology. These efforts are intended to increase the number of businesses emerging from their respective educational and research programs and spur regional economic prosperity.

In Philadelphia, Drexel University announced that it will establish a $10 million seed fund to make early stage investment in technologies developed by Drexel-affiliated entrepreneurs. The university will raises $5 million in funding that will be matched by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeast Pennsylvania (BFP) over the next 10-years to support the fund. In addition to committing $5 million in funding, BFP will open an office at Innovation Center @3401, a workspace and resource center for early stage tech and business services companies. Innovation Center @3401 is operated by Drexel University and the University City Science Center, and is housed at the Science Center. Through this partnership, BFP will provide Innovation Center @3401 client companies with consulting services, market analysis and access to capital. Read the announcement…

The University of Virginia (UVA) will launch a new $10 million fund that will make seed investments over 10 years to help commercialize UVA technologies and opportunities. This new funded is intended to accelerate the UVA’s efforts to drive local and state economic development as well as produce discoveries that lead to new technologies, products and therapies that will have both national and global impacts. Managed by the UVA Licensing & Venture Group, an independent non-profit foundation that is affiliated with the University, the university will make investments in innovation, translational research and commercialization.

Approximately $5 million of the fund will be provided by the UVA Health System with the remaining funding coming from unrestricted endowment dollars. To be eligible for funding, a company must:

  • Commercialize UVA intellectual property;
  • Be founded by current faculty, staff or students; or,
  • Have gone through the UVA i.Lab program.

UVA intends for the fund to become self-sustaining as well as be invested directly back into the University to be used for a number of strategic research initiatives. Read the announcement…

In partnership with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Marquette University announced the Marquette Enterprise Seed Fund to help fund student- and faculty-led entrepreneurial efforts in Milwaukee. The new program will draw upon WEDC’s Capital Catalyst Program and matching funds from the university’s strategic innovation fund initiative to make awards of up to $600,000 in seed stage funding. Marquette intends to provide awards of up to $50,000 to six projects in each of three competitive application periods. Eligible applicants are Marquette students, faculty and staff who have established a legal business entity. In addition to funding, awardees will receive access to mentors and periodic programming sessions hosted by the University’s Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship. Read the announcement…


Correction: The article was updated to clarify that Innovation Center @3401 is operated by Drexel University and the University City Science Center, and is housed at the Science Center.




Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsincapital, higher ed