Winrock International and its partners extend the Health InnovatAR program

by George Jared ( 270 views 

Six startup companies in the healthcare industry will get a financial boost from the Health InnovatAR program, a collaboration between Winrock International, Arkansas Heart Hospital, BioVentures and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).

Startups anywhere can apply for the $50,000 grants that are being offered, and several of the winners will be from Arkansas, program director Jeff Stinson told Talk Business & Politics.

Applications will be accepted through March 31 and final decisions will be made by April 30th. Health InnovatAR held a similar accelerator program in 2016 called HubX-LifeSciences, and 80 companies applied, Stinson said. It was the first-ever privately-funded and industry-specific business accelerator program in Arkansas.

The 2016 program featured startups from around the nation and the world with products for the healthcare industry. Each company spent three months testing their patented technologies and perfecting their business strategies. Participating companies collectively raised more than $2 million in private equity funding, according to Winrock International.

“We hope to expand on that applicant pool this year,” he said.

A myriad of factors will decide which companies are selected. Market competitiveness, potential to grow and accelerate, and other startup business criteria will be considered. The process will be similar to the one used by venture capitalists when they invest, Stinson said.

The program is funded by a $250,000 operational grant from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The $300,000 that will be doled to the winners was raised through a private equity pool.

“AEDC is excited to support Health InnovatAR,” said Executive Director Mike Preston. “These startup companies and their research will play vital roles in changing the landscape of the health care industry in the state, the nation and all over the globe. Getting in front of the game now will help our economic climate for years to come and place Arkansas in the forefront of those working in health care innovation.”

The benefits to the companies could go beyond the initial grant. On the back-end of the process, companies will have the chance to raise private equity and it will give them opportunities to connect and network better within the industry, Stinson said. Several of the companies selected will be from Arkansas. Aiding these startups is a key factor in growing the state’s economy and creating a vibrant business sector. Stinson is the executive director of the Fund for Arkansas’s Future, the state’s largest angel investment fund.

“We’ve built a powerful team around a successful model.” Stinson said. “We’re honored and excited to have Arkansas Heart Hospital, UAMS, and BioVentures joining us as partners.”