“Innovation Forward,” an Arizona initiative to support budding entrepreneurs, who are the real job engines of the economy, opened today in downtown Phoenix.

The center’s purpose is to cultivate start-ups, providing them with the tools they need to stay and grow in Arizona. Entrepreneurs will also be able to learn from proven leaders in their industry, says Don Cardon, CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, which created the space.

The Authority also announced it would double funding for the Arizona Innovation Challenge to $3 million – the largest monetary award in the US for a technology commercialization challenge.

In early 2012, the Arizona Commerce Authority will award $1.5 million to the most promising technology ventures that participate in the 2nd Arizona Innovation Challenge (awards range from $100,000 – $250,000).

The challenge advances innovation and technology commercialization opportunities in Arizona by supporting early stage ventures in Arizona’s targeted industries: advanced materials, advanced manufacturing, cleantech and renewable energy, aerospace and defense, bio and life sciences, and information technology.

“This challenge gives innovative entrepreneurs the funding needed to hit the marketplace more quickly, and will provide them with the mentoring and partnerships that will enable them to succeed,” says Jerry Colangelo, Co-Chair of the Arizona Commerce Authority.

In 2011, the Challenge received over 100 applications and awarded eight companies grants ranging from $100,000 -$250,000.

Companies that receive awards are required to commercialize their technology and generate revenue within one year. All  applicants receive significant feedback generated from the evaluation process by a seasoned panel of evaluators, and are invited to partner with commercialization resources across Arizona. They are also evaluated for eligibility in other local programs, such as Arizona’s Angel Investment Program.

Applications for the first round of 2012 will be accepted January 6 – February 6.

Earlier this year, the Arizona Commerce Authority secured $18.2 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative for the Arizona Innovation Accelerator Fund. This money will help spur lending to Arizona’s small businesses and foster business expansion, capital investment and job creation in Arizona.

This five-year program will provide small businesses (less than 500 employees) from $50,000 to $2 million for working capital, inventory, equipment purchases, workforce expansion and property improvements.

For more information on grants and grant writing, please visit Grant Pros.


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