COLLABORATION

Passion, meet power: Innovation Hub launched to lift Buffalo startups

SOURCE: YouTube
The new Innovation Hub will help stimulate Buffalo's startup economy.

Calling all entrepreneurs in Buffalo city and across Western New York, here’s an unmissable opportunity to get your startup off the ground.

The University at Buffalo’s (UB) Innovation Hub has officially launched, with US$32 million in its coffers. This includes a US$13.5 million accelerator fund for proof of concept/very early and pre-seed-stage startups and US$11 million to run entrepreneurial programmes and events. The remaining US$7 million has been earmarked to build incubation facilities at UB’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences (CBLS).

The money is New York State money, and is the second Buffalo Billion investment dedicated to building Buffalo’s entrepreneur ecosystem. The commitment by the state is geared towards accelerating startup growth from innovations at UB and its partners across technology sectors.

Through Buffalo Billion, Empire State Development is partnering with UB, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Jacobs Institute, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute and Kaleida Health to help commercialise technologies generated through their work.

The Innovation Hub, run by UB’s Business and Entrepreneur Partnership (BEP) office, creates an environment that encourages collaboration, aimed at accelerating speed-to-market by guiding the movement of ideas from the lab, clinic and classroom into the market, through new startups.

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Speaking at the launch last week, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said the initiative would help stimulate growth in Buffalo’s startup economy, as well as the wider region. Institutions like UB, he added, were proven catalysts in the development of dynamic life science and technology hubs across the state.

“Through strategic investments and local partnerships, this Innovation Hub will bring together the very best and brightest in the tech industry, growing the region’s innovation economy for generations to come.”

The birthplace of grain elevators, electric cars and even air-conditioning, Buffalo is one of the country’s most entrepreneurial metro areas.

Buffalo city
Buffalo is the second-largest city in New York and a thriving centre for innovation. Source: Shutterstock

Through collaboration, UB and its partners collectively bring more than US$412 million in annual research outflows, have more than 150 technologies available for license, a 3,000-strong faculty, a student body over ten times that and nearly 20,000 employees. Their focus is on making new discoveries and advancing technological applications in the medical field, diagnostics, healthcare delivery, software applications, materials, imaging, sustainability, and other diverse innovative developments.

The hub will supercharge their efforts by connecting educators, learners and business leaders, allowing them to share, explore and develop new ideas in a more collaborative and efficient way.

“By leveraging the diverse portfolio of ideas, research, technologies and innovations from UB and its partners, and coupling them with funding, incubation and support services, we have the necessary pieces to create a globally-recognised hub for start-up business formation and commercialisation,” Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said. 

UB President Satish K. Tripathi said the hub was a “natural expansion” of the university’s work, created to stimulate Buffalo’s startup economy through collaboration.

“UB is committed to fostering an environment where entrepreneurship can grow and flourish in and across our region, and the Innovation Hub concept is a critical component in that effort,” Satish said. 

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At present, the planning, design and renovation of the CBLS is already underway and expected to complete by early 2020. The space will be made available to companies affiliated with UB and its partner organisations. The school will also use parts of the facility for entrepreneur support programs, events and education, among other related services.

Funding rounds have also kicked off, with a focus on fuelling proof-of-concept and pre-seed/seed growth. A total of seven proof-of-concept accelerator fund awardees have already been selected, with more announcements in the pipeline. 

According to UB, funding will likely be deployed across five years, with the number of investments each year to depend on the number, quality and size and level of each one (as small as US$25,000, with a follow-on of a maximum US$1 million).

The hub has also commenced outreach engagement and support programming to help guide founders and startups through various stages of growth.

“The Innovation Hub will bridge the gap between innovations and the marketplace, connecting students, faculty and entrepreneurs to the funding, facilities and talent that are needed to bring an idea to life,” UB Associate Vice President for Economic Development Christina Orsi said.