INDIANAPOLIS - Indianapolis-based Elevate Ventures has announced the first four recipients of the Elevate Nexus Higher Education Grants. The private venture development organization says the $200,000 in funding will be used to launch and improve entrepreneurship programming within the universities and their communities. Jacob Schpok, executive director of university initiatives and entrepreneur-in-residence for Elevate Ventures, says the goal is to support and grow more innovation-driven startups throughout the state.

IUPUI, the University of Notre Dame, Purdue University and Trine University have each received $50,000 as a result of the award. Schpok talked about the purpose of the grants in an interview with Inside INdiana Business.

"These grants in particular are a way for us to continue to amplify the work that higher education institutions are currently engaged in to support the entrepreneurs that are both within their university, but also within their community as well," said Schpok. "When we reviewed applications, the four that we selected all made a very compelling case of the efforts that they currently had in place, as well as what they wanted to bring on campus and into their communities to further support innovation-driven enterprises."

The organization says the grant proposals were required to include language specifying how a higher education institution will locate, cultivate and educate innovation-driven entrepreneurs, how the community would be engaged, and how the programming would continue beyond the life of the grant.

The proposals from the winning institutions include:

  • IUPUI: Establish a Center for Student Innovation. This central entity will market various efforts on campus to students and faculty and facilitate engagement.
  • Notre Dame: Amplify The Race to Revenue program, which is modeled after top accelerators, and provides startups with a mentor infrastructure, weekly coaching meetings and a concluding Demo Day.
  • Purdue University: Amplify Purdue Foundry’s Double Down program, which is designed to tackle a startup’s unique challenges and enable it to rapidly grow and scale through direct business consulting and mentorship.
  • Trine University: Establish an incubator of intellectual ideation and amplify student and community entrepreneurial programming.

Schpok says there are two intentions for the grants.

"A university can apply for these resources for them to surface entrepreneurs, encourage them to pursue an innovation-driven business model, and then provide them connections to the Elevate Nexus program, where we can provide additional educational material for them. Those universities that already have educational material available for these innovation-driven enterprises, it's our intention for these dollars to go towards continuing to bolster those programs that they have in place."

He says ultimately, the organization would like to see more entrepreneurs that are looking to raise capital to grow and scale their businesses. 

"That then ultimately leads to companies becoming employers and the larger economic vehicles in their communities," Schpok added.

The grants were created through a partnership with the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Elevate Ventures says a total of $200,000 will be awarded annually over the next three years.