YBI Part of Group Awarded $703,000 to Promote Innovation Efforts

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A regional partnership that includes the Youngstown Business Incubator was among the recipients of $29 million awarded Tuesday by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Resilient NEO, a partnership led by the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, or Magnet, received $703,378 through EDA’s Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology – or Sprint – Challenge. Magnet provided the $175,844 local match. Joining the YBI and Magnet are Team NEO and JumpStart, a business accelerator in Akron.

“We’ve got great partners with us. There’s a lot of potential,” said Alec Simon, director of startups for Cleveland-based Magnet. “We’re excited with what this funding will help unlock.” 

EDA launched the Sprint Challenge last year “to harness America’s entrepreneurial potential to address the economic, health, and safety risks caused by the coronavirus pandemic through entrepreneurship and innovation,” according to a statement announcing the grants. The 44 awardees were chosen from a pool of 238 applicants. 

“The Biden Administration applauds the Sprint Challenge awardees’ efforts to pivot to help their communities through difficult times quickly,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in the statement. “American entrepreneurship and innovation will help our country through this coronavirus pandemic and build back better, stronger, and more resilient.”

The grant will provide funds for the four partners to identify and assist high-potential startups and existing companies that are working with new and innovative technologies, said Barb Ewing, YBI’s CEO. The incubator’s efforts will focus on its expertise in additive manufacturing. 

The group will target their efforts in Mahoning, Trumbull, Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark, Portage and Wayne counties over an 18-month period beginning in July. 

“We’re going to be helping generate deal flow,” Simon said. The partners will help connect the companies with intensive services to accelerate their growth as well as with potential customers and investors.   

Deal flow is “a constant struggle,” Ewing acknowledged. The grant funding will also allow YBI to “put some robustness” around efforts to connect startups to existing manufacturers. 

“We also have for the first time really developed this idea for enhanced services for high-performing companies,” she continued. “There are just some things that we don’t traditionally do.”   

That could mean assistance such as setting up accounting systems or help with marketing. “It would depend on what the company needs,” she said. The grant also provides the ability to set money aside to meet the needs of companies that have a “big distinction between them and the rest of the market.”  

Both Simon and Ewing were enthusiastic about the opportunity to collaborate. 

“We work in the same ecosystem and we’re part of many of the same networks,” Ewing said. “This is the first time we’ve worked on a large proposal like this.”  

Magnet has “lightly partnered” with all three organizations previously and is looking forward to the “deeper level of collaboration,” Simon said. 

Magnet has greater expertise with advanced manufacturing more broadly but YBI probably understands additive manufacturing and the opportunities it represents, Ewing said. “We compliment each other well,” she remarked. 

Additionally, Ewing said she is excited about developing an industrial education model for advanced manufacturing as a whole and additive manufacturing in particular. 

She is looking forward to as well to deepening YBI’s commercialization model around additive, “taking the current program and just making it stronger and better,” with the end in mind of “having a truly unique commercialization model that differentiates us from every other incubator in the country and promoting it as such.”  

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.