Arkansas State University Innovation System — A-State Innovate — is an entrepreneurial and industrial resource operated as a part of the Delta Center for Economic Development. The goal is to help entrepreneurs and industrial partners with design assistance, prototyping, fundraising, business planning, marketing, and other aspects of creating a business or product.
A-State Innovate includes three locations: The Garage — a makerspace and co-working space on the Arkansas State University campus; The Shop — a machine shop/wood shop located in Jonesboro’s industrial park; and The Lab — an affiliation with The Catalyst, an incubator located in the Arkansas Biosciences Institute building on Arkansas State University’s campus. A-State Innovate has been in operation since July 2017 and has celebrated numerous successes, learned many lessons, and created a clear direction for where we are going.
Over the past two years, A-State Innovate has supported design teams, vendors and manufacturers in a variety of ways across a broad cross-section of business and industry. The holistic nature of A-State Innovate’s entrepreneurial support includes assistance in presenting data in the area of bioscience research; connecting our members to high-level policy makers; and creating opportunities to pitch to investors.
Product lines vary from hunting and musical accessories to software apps. The business side of product development is also important. Since its inception, A-State Innovate’s involvement has included the development of marketing plans, 21 patent pursuits, and supporting patent members in prototype development and space for micromanufacturing. Grants and investments to members are projected to exceed the $1 million mark in the near future.
Resources provided by A-State Innovate have enabled members in the region to generate close to $2 million in revenue and created several high-paying jobs.
There have been lessons learned. Entrepreneurs with innovations are often $5,000 to $30,000 away from taking the next step. They may need $5,000 to $15,000 for a patent, technical assistance, a mold, or money for the first production order. Bioscience companies and software development may require significant additional investment.
Northeast Arkansas needs seed money. With the exception of family and friends, the majority of large investments are coming from outside the region. Northeast Arkansas needs individuals and groups who want to broaden their financial portfolio and are concerned with increasing opportunity and economic growth in our region.
The opportunity to serve as a catalyst of collaboration for faculty, staff and business leaders is another beneficial attribute of A-State Innovate. Correspondingly, the work space, technological support and business and product development services combine to create a one-stop shop for entrepreneurial endeavors to flourish.
Looking ahead, we will be working to enhance our project development efforts. Arkansas Economic Development Commission — Manufacturing Solutions, Jonesboro Unlimited, SolidWorks, and TriMech Solutions are partnering with A-State Innovate to create a new product development team. For industry this will be a “project-based” internship program that will allow our partners access to interns for individual projects.
For our entrepreneurs, it will strengthen our design services and prototyping capabilities. The team will consist of standout engineering students with design, project management, and communication skills. In the future, we hope to expand this program to include other services.
Come see us to take your business idea from concept to reality. We are open for business at A-State Innovate.
Editor’s note: Ty Keller is the Executive Director for A-State Innovate at Arkansas State University. The opinions expressed are those of the author.