University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Center for Innovation Foundation receives national award

The University of North Dakota Center for Innovation Foundation recently was awarded the Excellence in Technology-Based Economic Development (TBED) Award from the State Science and Technology Institute's (SSTI), a national organization that leads, supports, and strengthens efforts to improve state and regional economies through science, technology and innovation.

The Foundation was the sole award winner in the Increasing Access to Capital category for enhancing the ability of technology-based ventures to access entrepreneur capital.

Presented at SSTI's 17th annual conference in Portland, Ore., the awards are designed to celebrate exceptional achievement in technology-based entrepreneurial economies.

"The UND Center for Innovation Foundation is honored to be recognized by this leading national organization for economic development," said Bruce Gjovig, CEO of the Foundation and Entrepreneur Coach.

Access to entrepreneur capital is one of the biggest barriers to early-stage company growth.

"We work daily to make it easier for ventures to secure the funding their progress requires," Gjovig said. "Our work is a reflection of the commitment of the North Dakota public and private sectors to entrepreneurship and innovation and more specifically, to increasing the flow of capital in the region. We are delighted to be a leader nationally and to be a  model for others to follow.”

"The Foundation’s success demonstrates that well-executed capital initiatives can help foster more entrepreneurship," SSTI President and CEO Dan Berglund said. "In just a few short years, the Foundation has shown its ability to secure angel, SBIR, and EB5 funding for successful ventures and create new companies and industries with high-paying jobs."

“We are being recognized for developing a statewide network of angel investment funds, student-run venture funds, an EB-5 Regional Center, and working with state policies to encourage access to capital for entrepreneurs," said Tom Kenville, Foundation Vice President and Rainmaker, who accepted the award at the conference.  Capital access programs include the Beginning Entrepreneur Loan program at the Bank of North Dakota, a 45 percent state investment tax credit for  angel investors, and the Center's angel investors education and outreach program.  SSTI recognizes that the Center and the associated Foundation have taken a national leadership role in access to entrepreneur capital , especially important in  a rural state.

Since 2006,  the Center for Innovation Foundation has helped 150 angel investors in launching nine angel funds in North Dakota and northwest Minnesota. These funds have invested  in 38 ventures  which--with co-investment and syndication--have resulted in over $24 million of equity investing, an average investment of $636,000 per venture.

In 2006, the Foundation sponsored the  formation Dakota Venture Group, the nation’s first fully student run venture fund in the nation, an evergreen fund with the Foundation. That fund is fully invested in  in 13 ventures, and more than 80 students have participated in hands-on equity investing so far.   In the fall of 2012, the student  venture group again made history with the launch of the nation’s first student run for-profit venture fund, investing funds for accredited investors.  The students have invested in one medical company with that new fund and have several ventures in due diligence.

The UND Center for Innovation Foundation is one of the premier venture development organizations in the United States, and has been ranked as one of the top entrepreneur centers in the nation by such entities as NBIA, SSTI, EDA and SBA.  The Center for Innovation has received 12 national and international awards for excellence, and is one of just seven entrepreneur centers nationwide that has been featured by the Regional Innovation Acceleration Network  (RIAN) for best practices and outstanding performance of venture development organizations.  The foundation’s mission is to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and access to entrepreneur capital as well as provide vital entrepreneur infrastructure such as the Ina May Rude Entrepreneur Center, a tech incubator.

SSTI (State Science and Technology Institute) has developed a nationwide network of practitioners and policymakers dedicated to improving the economy through science and technology. Since 1996, this network has resulted in unique access to information SSTI uses to assist states and communities as they build tech-based economies, conduct research on best practices and trends in tech-based economic development, and encourage cooperation among and between state and federal programs.  The annual, nationally competitive Excellence in Technology-Based Economic Development awards recognize initiatives that greatly impact state and regional economies through effective and innovative approaches to building tech-based economies.

-- Bruce Gjovig, Director, UND Center for Innovation, 777.3132m