The Riverside Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept and Innovation Center (EPIC) has received a grant for $499,000 from the United States Economic Development Administration (EDA) to build and develop training programs for prospective entrepreneurs provided at the center. As part of the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies program, EPIC was chosen from 215 applicants across the country, and now joins the 35 organizations that will be receiving a total of $15 million in grants.
The diverse group of organizations receiving these grants, along with UCR, included nonprofits, programs focused on entrepreneurship, as well as other institutions of higher education which practice and explore current commercialization and trade concepts . The group of awardees for the year of 2016 included the EDA’s first investments in historically black colleges and universities, a women-focused capital fund in Texas, still in its early stages; a Native American-centered proof-of-concept center in Oklahoma and centers of urban innovation in fashion technology and social innovation. The diversity among the EDA’s funding choices for these grants denotes a shift in the face of American entrepreneurship and the beginnings of entrepreneurial research and expansion in international marketing and trade.
Rosibel Ochoa, UCR vice chancellor of technology partnerships, said in an interview with UCR Today, “Support for EPIC from the Riverside County Economic Development Administration, and our city and regional partners, is evidence that our region is primed to support the growth of high knowledge-based jobs and the entrepreneurial community they can develop from.”
The grant that the center received is a “challenge investment,” which intends to help create and expand proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, as part of the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies Program, which works to spur innovation across the United States. United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker describes the Regional Innovation Strategies Program as an effort to advance, “innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country by addressing two essential core components that entrepreneurs need to take their ideas to market: programmatic support and access to capital.”
As one of the awardees, the UCR-based center demonstrates its viable candidacy as part of the “visionaries and job creators of tomorrow” that will be contributing to the federal effort to evolve the United States’ competitive edge on a global scale.
EPIC was launched only three months ago, on Oct. 26, 2016. It was introduced by UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox as, “another example how we here in our region are going to show others around the country how this not only can be done, but I would suggest how it should be done.”
The Riverside EPIC provides resources for training, mentors, and connections to investors to both students and faculty of UC Riverside, as well as anyone else in Riverside County. Riverside County was the primary sponsor of the entrepreneurial center, while Corona, Murrieta, Temecula, Palm Desert, the Temecula Valley Entrepreneur Exchange, InSocal Connect, the Murrieta Innovation Center and Excite contributed the remainder of the funds.
During the launch event, EPIC Director Larry Morgan said, “the key to our success is our partners,” and the “collaboration with the county and [EPIC’s] partner cities’ economic development departments is crucial for entrepreneurs to grow and thrive.” With the United States’ Economic Development Administration as its newest partner, the Riverside Entrepreneurial Proof of Concept Center is sure to become integral to the future of American entrepreneurship.