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Syracuse University receives designation as Economic Development University Center

September 23, 2011

Kelly Homan Rodoski
(315) 443-3784

Syracuse University has received a $500,000 award from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and the designation as an EDA University Center. The award is aimed at igniting innovation and accelerating entrepreneurship, and launching student ventures throughout upstate New York.

SU was one of 21 universities nationwide—and the only one in New York state—to receive the designation. The University Center builds upon a successful Kauffman Foundation demonstration program launched in 2009 that brought together a group of regional colleges and venture development organizations to focus on student startup companies as a regional growth strategy. Together with a $1.7 million endowment to the Raymond von Dran Innovative and Disruptive Entrepreneurship Accelerator (IDEA) Fund at Syracuse University, the gift provides sustaining funding for the effort to help student entrepreneurs start new businesses and nonprofit organizations that will in turn provide economic growth in Central New York.

Bruce Kingma, SU’s associate provost for entrepreneurship and innovation, and Linda Dickerson Hartsock, vice president for innovation and technology, CenterState Corp. for Economic Opportunity (CEO) and director of industry collaboration for the Syracuse Center of Excellence (SyracuseCoE), collaborated on the proposal on behalf of SU and CenterState CEO, regional colleges and universities and a coalition of community-based resource partners.

“This designation as an Economic Development Administration University Center is a powerful statement about the national prominence of our community’s signature strength in cross-sector collaboration,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “Taking on the great challenges of our day—such as sparking entrepreneurship in our nation’s older industrial regions—requires that we bring the best minds from the public, private and nonprofit sectors together. With CenterState CEO, the Kauffman Foundation and partners across upstate, we’re doing exactly that, driving innovation by tapping new talent and retaining it to restore prosperity.”

“Whether it’s the chance to turn a great idea into a successful business or having the start-up support critical for long-term growth, students across Central New York will benefit from this award. Working with other colleges, Syracuse University will shape the future of a stronger economy, where students are empowered to turn ‘eureka’ into budding businesses that create jobs and strengthen the marketplace,” says Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

“Syracuse University is home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge research and innovation,” says Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). “This federal investment will apply the University’s resources to the development of the next generation of new businesses and new jobs for a strong and growing economy across the state. With the skills and talent I know New York’s students have, I know we can out-educate, out-innovate and out-build the global competition.”

Kingma says the award is amazing news. “This is an acknowledgement of the success of what we are doing,” he says. “With our designation and funding as a University Center, we anticipate over 50 new student businesses a year will be started with over 400 students taking courses on starting new ventures.”

“This project leverages the most valuable asset in Upstate New York—the intellectual capital of our colleges and universities,” says Hartsock. “It will help the region retain our best and brightest, and provide the support system to launch and grow new ventures. We look forward to working with our academic partners, along with the many community mentors who support this program, to grow a new generation of entrepreneurs who will create jobs and wealth, and take their place as future business, community and philanthropic leaders.”

The University Center provides courses, programs, free incubator space in The Tech Garden and seed funding for ventures that are aligned with regional strengths and provide the highest growth potential for the region: software development, information technologies, digital and new media; clean tech, renewable energy and environmental systems; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors; agribusiness and ag tech; and health, wellness and life sciences. John Liddy, entrepreneur in residence, along with more than 100 community-based mentors, provide guidance to students during the venture development process.

One of the most unique components of that program is the Syracuse Student Sandbox, an incubator space for student start-up companies. There are currently more than two dozen student companies growing in the incubator—a 4,000-square-foot co-working space in The Tech Garden in downtown Syracuse. Helios, a company developing a process for sterilizing tools in the medical industry, won a first-place award of $40,000 in the New York State Business Plan Competition in April. Another company, iGetMoreFit, which allows individuals to plan their workouts through their iPhone or iPod, recently signed a strategic manufacturing and distribution partnership. PortfolioPortal, an online gallery for college artists, was spotlighted in a front page feature in a recent issue of the Central New York Business Journal.

Ventures graduating from the Syracuse Student Sandbox will be encouraged to relocate to urban centers, including economically distressed neighborhoods in Syracuse, similar areas in smaller upstate cities or rural economies across the region. Graduates of the program now working full-time in the Tech Garden include Rounded Development LLC, a recently designed web design firm; Brand-Yourself, last year’s first prize recipient in the Creative Core Emerging Business Plan Competition, which now employs 11 workers; and graFighters, which launched a new product this month.

Although IDEA is a collaboration between SU and the Tech Garden, it is open to all student entrepreneurs across disciplines from colleges and universities in central upstate New York. IDEA’s educational partners include Binghamton University, Cayuga Community College, Clarkson University, Colgate University, Cornell University, Cortland State College, Le Moyne College, Morrisville State College, Onondaga Community College, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Tompkins Cortland Community College, the University of Rochester, Wells College and Upstate Medical University.

The consortium welcomes new college and university partners. For more information, contact Kingma at 443-7170 or or Hartsock at

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