BioVentures LLC at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has secured a nearly $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to support entrepreneurs from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are looking to develop health technology and health care businesses in Arkansas.
The four-year $2,999,997 grant comes from the Minority Business Development Agency’s Capital Readiness Program, which chose BioVentures and 42 other recipients from more than 1,000 applicants. UAMS is providing $750,000 in matching funds, bringing the total funding to $3.75 million.
The Capital Readiness Program is a $125 million technical assistance program to help underserved entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses.
BioVentures President Dr. Kevin Sexton will lead the groundbreaking initiative called the Arkansas Collaborative for Technological and Innovative Venture Equality (ACTIVE), a statewide, early-stage technical assistance/incubator focused on socially and economically disadvantaged business owners seeking to develop health technology and health care businesses in Arkansas.
“The Capital Readiness Program grant is a game changer for BioVentures and ACTIVE,” said Sexton, who also holds leadership posts with the UAMS Translational Research Institute and the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. “This initiative could double the number of health technology companies in Arkansas, and those new additions would be from socially and economically disadvantaged businesses.”
Socially and economically disadvantaged individuals are those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias because of their identity as a member of a group without regard to their individual qualities, according to a UAMS press release. This group also includes individuals who are at a disadvantage due to gender, veteran status, disability, residence in a rural area, membership in an underserved community and others.
The ACTIVE program aims to provide these entrepreneurs with better access to resources and opportunities. The program will connect them with mentors, coaches and experts offering technical help, funding advice and networking opportunities.
“This initiative represents a significant step towards equality and inclusion,” said Sexton, also an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Surgery. “This isn’t merely a financial boost; it’s a clarion call for innovation and inclusivity in Arkansas’ health tech domain. With the Capital Readiness Program’s trust, BioVentures and ACTIVE are embarking on an adventure where the talents of our socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs will be the cornerstone of the next generation of health care solutions in the state.”