Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron, University of Akron Research Foundation Big Winners of National i6 Challenge

WASHINGTON, September 23, 2010 – U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced the winners of the i6 Challenge, a new $12 million innovation competition led by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Locke made the announcement during his keynote remarks at an event on regional innovation clusters co-hosted by The Council on Competitiveness and The Brookings Institution.

The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron (ABIA) and University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) were the recipients of the Chicago region award for their “Innovative Solutions for Invention Xceleration” project. The aim of the multimillion dollar initiative is to increase innovation and minimize the time from idea to commercialization of new technologies by bringing together world-class scientists, physicians, engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs in the biomedical device/product and polymer science industries of northeast Ohio.

Deborah Wince-Smith, President and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness also recognized the award and publicly congratulated ABIA and UARF at the event. University of Akron President Dr. Luis M. Proenza and Nicholas York, a member of the UA Board of Trustees, are attending today’s meeting in Washington, D.C.

“This is another example of national recognition for the transformational power of our community’s shared vision,” said Dr. Frank Douglas, ABIA president and chief executive officer. “It is a wonderful acknowledgment of the commitment to patient-centered innovation and commercialization, and the hard work to that end across the ABIA and all of its founding organizations.”

“The University of Akron, as a northeast Ohio anchor for the biomaterials innovation cluster, and as founder of UARF and founding partner of ABIA, congratulates ABIA, UARF, and their partners on this outstanding recognition from the U.S. Department of Commerce,” said Dr. Proenza. “Our regional prosperity and economic security are dependent on an effective and vibrant innovation system. We are fortunate to have such nationally recognized innovators and programs as part of our community. This award to ABIA and UARF, which have a culture of scientific and biomedical excellence, innovation, and commercialization, will help guarantee a sustainable effort in translating creative ideas into commercially viable products in order to truly benefit humanity.”

The i6 Challenge seeks to identify and support the nation’s best ideas for technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in six different regions of the country. The winning team from each region will receive $1 million from EDA to support their project and may be eligible for additional awards from NIH and NSF. Projects include efforts to drive innovative technologies in the medical and bioscience industries to market more quickly by bringing experts in science and academia together with public and private sector businesses and entrepreneurs.

“I applaud the winners of the i6 Challenge on their tremendous achievement,” Locke said. “Each of the winners exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovation and will help move America forward by increasing our competitiveness around the world. The i6 Challenge represents a key component of President Obama’s innovation strategy – to move great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to create jobs and economic growth.”

“I congratulate the very distinguished winners of the inaugural i6 Challenge competition to advance President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation,” said Aneesh Chopra, U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Associate Director for Technology in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “And I also want to celebrate all of the entrepreneurs, investors, universities, foundations, and non-profits who applied their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit to the cause of spurring economic growth through innovation. The ingenuity you displayed in your applications reaffirmed the value of this Administration’s broader policy support for the use of challenges and prizes to help solve big problems.”

“I am proud that the Economic Development Administration will be working with these organizations that have identified new ways to tap into the nation’s innovative capacity,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez. “Their ideas represent the best that the six regions of our country had to offer, and I am confident that their projects will lead to job creation and economic growth.”

“We are pleased to support NSF Small Business Innovation Research grantees as partners with the winners of the Department of Commerce i6 Challenge,” said Kesh Narayanan, Director of the NSF Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships. “We expect this collaboration to build on scientific and engineering discoveries and to accelerate regional innovation.”
“Congratulations to the six winners of the inaugural i6 Challenge competition,” said National Institutes of Health Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “NIH is committed to advancing President Obama’s policy of accelerating innovation in science and medicine across the United States.”

The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron – an exceptional collaboration of Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Health System, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, Summa Health System, The University of Akron and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – is focused on patient-centered innovation and commercialization at the intersection of biomaterials and medicine.

The winning teams from each region are:
• Atlanta Region: The Global Center for Medical Innovation, a not-for-profit corporation, will implement three major initiatives to accelerate the development and commercialization of next generation medical devices and technology.

• Austin Region: New Mexico Technology Ventures Corporation will develop an infrastructure for the successful maturation of technologies developed under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program into commercially viable enterprises.

• Chicago Region: University of Akron Research Foundation and Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron – Innovative Solutions for Invention Xceleration will increase innovation and minimize the time from ideation to commercialization of new technologies by bringing together world-class scientists, physicians, engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs in the biomedical device/product and polymer science industries of Northeast Ohio.

• Denver Region: BioGenerator, Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri at St. Louis, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis County Economic Council, and the St. Louis Development Corporation will advance bioscience technology commercialization through collaborative targeted pre-company translational research, company creation, and first funding, and build an entrepreneurial infrastructure that is market-based around the needs of existing bioscience firms and investors.

• Philadelphia Region: Innovation Works, Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University will create the “Agile Innovation System,” to accelerate the commercialization of technologies being developed within the region’s universities and small businesses.

• Seattle Region: The Oregon Translational Research & Drug Development Institute, the Oregon Nanoscience & Microtechnologies Institute, and the Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center are joining forces to create the first comprehensive, innovation infrastructure – the Oregon Innovation Cluster – to address gaps in the commercialization continuum for three broad industry/technology clusters.

Locke also announced today that the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard Business School is the recipient of an EDA grant under the Mapping Regional Innovation Clusters Project, a competition to help policymakers and practitioners across America identify their strengths and more effectively tap into the regional innovation clusters that are driving 21st century job growth. The Institute will receive approximately $1 million to develop a cluster map by analyzing their regional assets, enabling them to create comprehensive strategies to promote economic growth.

This mapping grant is part of EDA’s Jobs and Innovation Partnership, a long-term prosperity plan to help build an environment where the private sector can flourish and create connections that will bring together vibrant regional economic ecosystems.

For more information on the i6 Challenge winners and EDA’s Mapping Regional Innovation Clusters Project, visit


Media Contacts:
Austen BioInnovation Institute: Scott Rainone, 330-572-7581,
University of Akron: Laura Massie, 330-972-6476,
U.S. Department of Commerce: Cleve Mesidor,, 202-482-4085