Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron, UA launch second session of Women's Entrepreneurship Program

Akron, October 2011 – The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron (ABIA) will host a second Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (WEP) with the support of the Dominion Foundation, which recently donated $10,000 for the course’s return.

The program was launched by the ABIA and University of Akron College of Business Administration in January 2011, and accepted 16 students working on seven innovative technology projects.  The aim of the program is to increase the number of woman entrepreneurs in burgeoning technology fields, and to facilitate commercialization of novel biomedical and alternative energy technologies in Akron, Ohio.

"The Dominion Foundation is proud to be a part of a program that will help to generate innovative new businesses that will enhance the Northeast Ohio region" said Terry Bishop, Philanthropy Manager for The Dominion Foundation.  "These partnerships, ABIAand The University of Akron, as well as other funders, certainly set an example in how we all need to value entrepreneurship and what it means for our future."

The second course is scheduled to take place through The University of Akron College of Business Administration during the 2012 spring semester.  A public informational session will take place on Wednesday, October 26 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. in UA’s Taylor Institute (Room 765). 

Projects admitted into the program are those with the potential to be spun into a company, or licensed within 18 to 24 months.  Once accepted, teams are exposed to a comprehensive business curriculum, mentoring by industry leaders and real-world experiences in order to advance their ideas to actual business concepts.

“Both during and after the program, we were surrounded by resources and experienced entrepreneurs who were more than willing to answer our questions and help us in our business endeavors,” said Courtney Gras, a graduate of The University of Akron whose team is targeting the battery industry with a solution to the alternative-energy storage problem.  “The program really helped us to build our network and get integrated into the Northeast Ohio business culture.”

Kelly Mackey, another University of Akron graduate who completed the pilot course, noted how her team’s idea for an artificial connective tissue advanced with the help of the program.  “At the start of the program, our idea was pure concept and over the course of the program we refined it to a product idea that would not only fulfill needs in the marketplace, but displace older methods and provide better recovery for patients,” Mackey said. 

Teams that completed the course in April continue to flourish from the program’s existence.  Gras and her partner recently formed a limited liability company, have been pursuing local business competitions while perfecting their prototypes and were approached by a local company interested in initiating a joint venture.  “This is a very exciting start for us” said Gras. 

Mackey and her partner, Jessica Kemppainen, continue to work on their project in the lab.  While there is still work to be done on their concept before it can be commercialized, she noted that “the benefits of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program did not end with this idea, but provided an educational foundation for pursuing other ideas in the future.”

Christine Flick, a senior design engineer for the ABIA’s Medical Device Development Center (MDDC) who completed the pilot course with a project that would lead to faster suturing was recently awarded additional funding through the ABIA’s Technology Development Fund (TDF).  The newly awarded funding will be used to create a prototype for her team’s device.