Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Education

With research funding on the rise, USF wins grant to support high-tech companies

TAMPA — The University of South Florida's research funding has topped the $400 million mark, with the latest million-dollar innovation grant arriving Wednesday.

When it comes to receiving federal research dollars, USF has broken into the top 50 public and private universities in the nation for the first time ever, according to a survey compiled over the summer by the National Science Foundation. USF research funding from all sources last year exceeded $411 million.

It's a sign of the university's growth and maturity, USF president Judy Genshaft said in her annual fall address Wednesday.

"That means, move over Johns Hopkins. USF is here," Genshaft said. "Move over, NYU and Michigan. USF is among you. Move over, Duke. … USF is in this very elite group."

Genshaft noted that there are only two universities in the state in the National Science Foundation's top 50, and the other, the University of Florida, "is 100 years older than we are."

In the same speech, Genshaft announced that a regional partnership led by USF has won a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to help grow Tampa Bay area technology companies and support new Web and mobile app ventures.

The money is coming from the Obama administration's i6 Challenge grants, which are given to help create jobs and foster high-tech innovation, entrepreneurship and product development.

Nationwide, the federal program is providing $7 million to help create networks of experts to support innovators and researchers, expand access to capital and connect mentors and advisers to entrepreneurs and small businesses.

USF's grant will be used to establish and operate the FirstWaVE Venture Center in downtown Tampa, where it will serve eight counties around Tampa Bay.

Over the next five years, it aims to help at least 50 startup companies based in Florida secure $500,000 in early-stage funding. By pairing new ventures with mentors and providing resources and services, the project is expected to help create an estimated 245 high-wage jobs paying more than $15 million in annual salaries.

USF will partner with Tampa Bay WaVE, a nonprofit that started in 2008 as a monthly meetup group for local Web and mobile tech startups. WaVE now has more than 80 members, 10 percent with more than $1 million in annual sales or outside investment, and one that was sold for $35 million last year.

Other partners in the project include the Florida High Tech Corridor Council, the Tampa Bay Technology Forum, the city of Tampa, Hillsborough County, the University of Tampa, and various private companies. In addition to the federal grant, the partners will contribute a total of $1 million in cash and in-kind contributions.

Along with USF, the other projects to receive federal i6 Challenge grants are in Las Cruces, N.M.; southern Indiana; Madison, Wis.; Kansas City, Mo.; Charlottesville, Va.; and at the University of California at Davis.

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