20 Mar Pilot fund brings capital to Eau Claire area innovations
Eau Claire, Wis. – A fund to provide capital for local and regional innovations received the green light last week from the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation’s Board of Directors.
Developed as a result of feedback from contestants in a regional business competition, the Family and Friends Innovation Development Fund will be established as a pilot project for the remainder of 2006. A maximum of $7,500 per project for up to three projects was approved as part of the pilot initiative, according to Brian Doudna, executive director of the EDC.
The organization, a nonprofit public-private sector partnership, has held a “Create Your Own Business Contest” for 21 years, and during the past two years various contestants have identified the need for more capital to advance ideas, Doudna said. The fund will assist entrepreneurs of early-stage businesses that are working toward commercialization of a technology, and it will complement early-stage financing programs being developed by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the West Central Regional Planning Commission.
Pilot funds can be used for the development of prototypes, or for technical assistance to validate market product potential. “It would be to assist companies in advancing to their next level of innovation,” Doudna said.
Funds will be awarded as part of a process in which a group of “serial entrepreneurs” reviews applications and makes funding recommendations to the EDC Board. Future funding will be based on the results of a review to be conducted this fall, but long-term funding sources have yet to be determined.
Pilot funding will be open to all industry clusters in the Eau Claire region. “We have not specifically targeted an industry sector,” Doudna said. “Locally, our target industry sector is medical device [manufacturers], but we are not limiting it to that industry cluster.”