Commerce Department awards $2.4M in innovation grants

Staff Report
Published May 7, 2014

The S.C. Department of Commerce on Tuesday awarded $2.4 million in its inaugural round of innovation grants to 14 organizations across the state to help foster high-tech and entrepreneurial economic development.

The grants are part of the agency’s effort to support and build a technology-based and entrepreneurial business environment in South Carolina. The Commerce Department started the state's first Office of Innovation in the fall.

"I'm excited to see the energy and impact that South Carolina's startup community has created, and we hope to help continue that momentum through this new program," said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. "The knowledge economy represents a vital part of South Carolina's present and future. Through the Office of Innovation, we want to create a business environment in South Carolina that is ideal to start and build a high-growth company."

In January, the Commerce Department issued a notice of funding opportunity called S.C. Innovation Challenge and solicited proposals for projects being developed through university collaboration, local government participation or public-private partnerships.

Proposals totaling more than $6.8 million from cities, county offices, chambers of commerce, universities, and startup incubators and accelerators were submitted.

A project could be awarded a maximum of $250,000 in grant funds, with a required nonstate match of funds. A second round of competitive grant funds likely will be announced later this year, the Commerce Department said.

The grants were awarded to:

  • Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation, CodeCamp, $247,000. The camp is a software education initiative to develop talent and provide students with workplace skills.
  • College of Charleston’s International Cross-Curricular Accelerator for Technology, $250,000. This is a technological accelerator that provides students an opportunity to develop business, computing and entrepreneurial skills.
  • Don Ryan Center for Innovation, Bluffton, $100,000. The center is a hybrid Internet consultant program designed to support new high-tech and high-innovation company formation and development in the Bluffton area.
  • Duke Energy Center for Innovation, Hartsville, $100,000. The center is expanding community and market impact by building the knowledge network through regional business and educational partnerships.
  • Faber Entrepreneurship Center, Columbia, High-Impact Consortium, $75,000. The project will develop a self-funded consortium managed by S.C. Chamber of Commerce to help scale up firms in the state.
  • Grand Strand Technology Council, Myrtle Beach, Grand Strand Startup Initiative, $250,000. The initiative aims to foster scalable startups as an economic development effort in Georgetown and Horry counties. It is opening operations this summer in a facility provided by Georgetown County Economic Development.
  • Greenville Chamber of Commerce, Greenville, Next Ecosystem Expansion, $250,000. The project comprises a bundle of interconnected products that work together to accelerate the critical mass of target high-impact companies and the development of the supporting ecosystem in the Upstate area.
  • The Harbor Entrepreneur Center, Mount Pleasant, $250,000. The center programs such as Accelerator and Forum designed to create collision among entrepreneurs, founders and investors.
  • Innovate Anderson, Anderson, $250,000. The community will create a hybrid incubator-accelerator-workforce development model allowing local businesses and their partners to work with startup companies at various levels.
  • Lowcountry Local First, Charleston, $100,000. Programs such as Local Works and Dirt Works Incubator Farm offer mentorship, educational opportunities and connection to capital in the Charleston metro area.
  • North Dargan Innovation Center, Florence, $200,000. The center is a business incubator that assists entrepreneurs in starting their own technology-based or other high employment growth business.
  • Rock Hill Economic Futures Group, Knowledge Park Innovation Center, $250,000. The center will focus on development of a workforce needed by knowledge economy businesses. It is a component of Knowledge Park, an urban business park linking downtown Rock Hill to Winthrop University.
  • South Carolina's Coalition for Mathematics & Science, Clemson, STEMLinx, $25,000. The program offers a digital marketplace of visual and text information that identifies a range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education programs in South Carolina that are accessible to educators, parents, students, scientists, engineers, professional organizations, economic development entities and government agencies.
  • Spartanburg Economic Futures Group, Spartanburg, $70,000. The group-sponsored Spartanburg Entrepreneurial Resource Network coordinates support to assist local entrepreneurs. The network provides mentorship, professional advice, financial assistance, introduction to contacts, research and short-term incubation facilities.
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