A jump start for UB inventions; Investment fund to help technology entrepreneurs get started

send this article to a friend By SUE WUETCHER
Reporter Editor

University at Buffalo entrepreneurs may be able to bring their inventions out of the garage and eventually to the assembly line via a new investment fund designed to provide seed money to fledgling high-tech companies in Western New York.

The university has joined a partnership of local and state institutions that hopes that by providing financial assistance to help technology entrepreneurs establish new companies, it also will stimulate the creation of high-tech jobs in Western New York.

The creation of the Western New York Business Development Fund was announced at a press conference on Jan. 6 in the UB Foundation Incubator. In addition to UB, the partners in the $750,000 fund are the New York State Science and Technology Foundation, part of the Empire State Development Corporation; the Erie County Industrial Development Agency; the Amherst Industrial Development Agency; the City of Buffalo, and the Western New York Technology Development Center (TDC), which will administer the fund.

The fund will fill what some have described as a void in regional economic-development efforts, providing seed and growth capital to assist companies at the early stage of development, well before traditional funding sources may become involved. Entrepreneurs may receive up to $100,000 from the fund-$25,000 in the first phase of investment, with that amount to be matched by the entrepreneur, and $75,000 in the second phase, with that amount to be matched from any source.

President William R. Greiner noted that the partnership role is a unique one for a university. But he pointed out that Western New York had a "great run" 20 or 30 years ago when Calspan and Moog brought to the area many top-notch scientists who spun off their own companies.

"We need to accelerate that, to make it easier to push the bright ideas into new businesses," he said.

Mark Karwan, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and chief executive officer of the UB Business Alliance, said that UB's membership in the investment partnership fits in well with the university's enhanced economic-development service mission.

It was a "no-brainer" to join the partnership, Karwan said, noting that it is hoped that some of the companies that the fund invests in will be those founded by members of the university community, and that some of the companies will locate in the UBF incubator.

UB has invested $100,000 in the fund and will provide expertise in assessing applications for equity funding, as well as identifying promising business proposals from university faculty, staff and students, he said.

University faculty, staff and students also may provide expertise to help companies receiving funds to further their ideas, he said.

For more information on the fund, call the TDC at 636-3626.

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