EL PASO, TX – January 28, 2021 – Two local non-profit organizations that support tech startup companies, Arrowhead Innovation Center and MCA Innovation Center, were each awarded $25,000 for the most creative and actionable ideas that support a more inclusive research and development (R&D) innovation ecosystem for the future. The Lab-to-Market (L2M) prize was awarded by The U.S. Small Business Administration in partnership with the National Science and Technology Council’s Lab-to-Market subcommittee.
The L2M Prize Competition recognizes impactful organizations, programs and ideas that support the R&D innovation ecosystems, particularly those focused on underrepresented communities and pandemic responses. Various categories of prizes were awarded in the $10,000 amount, but both MCA and Arrowhead were awarded the more competitive Visionary Awards at $25,000.
The MCA Innovation Center L2M submission aims to grow the Nurse to Innovator Program that links nurse innovators with engineers and experts in digital manufacturing to produce solutions that improve the health and safety of frontline healthcare workers across the region. Partnering with Fab Lab El Paso and Fab Lab Juarez, this program will help to bring ideas to life – to benefit the patients and the providers while potentially creating a product that can be commercialized.
“We are excited that this grant from SBA Lab-to-Market will allow the MCA, in collaboration with nurses, other frontline healthcare workers, and the regional Fab Labs, to grow a program that will strengthen the regional innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem,” says Nancy Lowery, Senior Director of Innovation at the MCA Foundation.
In addition to the New Lab to Market Competition prize, the MCA Innovation Center’s Nurse 2 Innovator Program was awarded a $75,000 grant from the Workers Lab Innovation Fund. This prize will complement that award and provide additional support for nurse innovators. The Nurse 2 Innovator Program will play an essential role in growing the innovation ecosystem in the El Paso and Cd. Juarez region.
Arrowhead Center plans to launch the Innovation Ecosystem Connect (IEC) Platform with their award. The IEC will be a dynamic platform that will connect small businesses with national labs and research institutions for growth, development, and technology transfer, addressing the common challenge small businesses face having limited to no access to federal entities. IEC will increase access to federal assets, small business lab engagement, and participation of underserved businesses with labs and SBIR/STTR opportunities.
“This award will allow Arrowhead to pilot a new program that addresses a gap we’ve identified while providing various levels of support to clients,” said Dana Catron, Director of Strategic Operations at Arrowhead Center. “Technologies remain stagnant – at both the small business and research institution level – because connections between the two entities are missed, are never initiated, or are lost. The IEC platform will act as an intermediary between the small business and research institution, catalyzing more partnership and agreements and ultimately, leading to the commercialization of innovative tech.”
Participants of IEC will complete a profile and short video, showcasing their idea or product, and will then be matched by IEC to a federal resource. Arrowhead plans to eventually build IEC into a nationwide platform for small businesses to connect with federal resources.
“Arrowhead Center and MCA are both committed to growing – and sustaining – a regional ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs during all phases of development,” said Kathryn Hansen, Director of Arrowhead Center. “Both of these awards will elevate the services and assistance available in our region, and address critical gaps in the innovation and commercialization pipeline.”
These two awards demonstrate national recognition of the region’s efforts to build a vibrant innovation ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurship and inclusive, sustainable growth by developing and commercializing technology.
“Over the past 10 years, Arrowhead and MCA have been working to elevate the region’s Innovation Ecosystem through our Centers and related programs, K-12 STEM and entrepreneurship training, and unique facilities and laboratories,” explains Emma W. Schwartz, President of the MCA Foundation, “Strong collaborations and programs that encompass southern New Mexico, El Paso County and Northern Chihuahua will help us create the high-quality high-technology jobs and companies that our region needs in the foreseeable future.”