$200K in grants fuel alternative energy, life sciences, biotech startups in Grand Rapids, Muskegon

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has awarded $200,000 in grant monies to fuel the continued development of two Grand Valley State University incubator programs for life sciences, high technology and alternative energy startups.

The incubators, housed at the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative (WMSTI) in Grand Rapids' SmartZone and the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) in Muskegon's SmartZone, each received $100,000 in separate grants.

"MAREC has always had incubator capacity, but it's never been fully developed, never had staff allocated," says Director Arn Boezaart. "The grant will allow us to ramp up the visibility of the incubator and the incubator capacity, and have some money to help entrepreneurs."

MAREC will combine the $100,000 grant with some $90,000 already on hand to fund enhancements that include furnishings, supplies, marketing and professional consultation services for incubator clients. The largest allocation ($44,000) will subsidize MAREC's first incubator manager, a two-year part-time position. Some $13,000 will also be allocated to a seed capital fund for energy and high-tech startups.

Boezaart says 60 percent of MAREC's 6,000 square feet of office and dry lab space is available for high-tech and alternative and renewable energy startups.

"Right now, MAREC is the lakeshore area's only publicly operated incubator facility," Boezaart says. "Given that we're so focused on economic development and entrepreneurial activity, it seems that we can make this facility as supportive as we can possibly be to new business development."

WMSTI will invest its $100,000 grant to continue development of its mini-lab incubator option for life sciences and high-technology startups, and to increase its marketing research and communications capacities to reach biotech entrepreneurs who need immediate lab space, specifically those receiving SBIR/STTR grants.

Background materials provided by GVSU state that the new funding will allow WMSTI to accommodate up to five more incubator members, who will have access to over 100 pieces of shared equipment and instrumentation.

WMSTI's funding will also support professional consulting services, marketing, business development and licenses for specialized management and tracking software to assist incubator clients in the development and commercialization of their product.

Source: Arn Boezaart, Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center; Bonnie Dawdy, West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative; Lambert Edwards & Associates
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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