UMD launches new $1.4 million Maryland Innovation Extension

The University of Maryland was awarded the first year of a $500,000, five-year grant as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) 2021 University Center Program Competition.

The project is funded at $1.4 million over the course of the grant, and includes matching funds from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), the UM Ventures Baltimore Fund, and the University System of Maryland. Dubbed the Maryland Innovation Extension, the project aims to expand entrepreneurship and innovation resources with four partner universities in Maryland.

One of 25 awarded by the EDA, the grant is designed to help institutions of higher education “provide critical technical assistance to support regional efforts to boost innovation, create good-paying jobs and ensure American competitiveness in the global economy.”

The new Maryland Innovation Extension includes UMD and partners Coppin State, Morgan State, Bowie State University and the University of Baltimore.

“This extension is designed to meet each institution where they are in their ecosystem development, bringing us all together to share resources towards increasing everyone's capacity for supporting innovators and entrepreneurs,” said Julie Lenzer, Chief Innovation Officer at UMD.

Initiatives expanding through the extension include:

  • The UMD I-Corps program provides real-world, hands-on training on how to successfully incorporate innovations into successful products. The extension will also include a structured mentorship program built onto I-Corps that increases the odds of success for technology ventures.
  • UMD’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program creates a network of experienced professionals to guide startups throughout their evolution. The program's guidelines and operational structure will be applied across the extension.
  • UM Ventures’ Business Fundamentals Workshops is a seminar series designed to teach faculty and graduate students about business concepts and skills, startup resources and how to take advantage of them, legal issues surrounding startups, and more. These workshops will be tailored to meet the needs of extension partners and their stakeholders.

“Combined, these resources provide the broader ecosystem with the comprehensive tools, training, and mentorship to support technology startups in Maryland, resulting in a more resilient and vibrant entrepreneurial economy,” said Dan Kunitz, Director of Venture Strategy and Development at the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech), who will lead the Maryland Innovation Extension.

But the reach of that impact, Kunitz said, could be even greater. “The Maryland Innovation Extension will cultivate a more innovative culture across the state, engaging socially and economically underserved communities to solve societal problems with impactful startup ventures,” he explained.

The University of Maryland, as a public and land-grant institution, has a mission to reach out with its resources and capabilities to serve a broader and more inclusive set of stakeholders across the state. For example, the University of Maryland Extension has provided education and assistance to the state of Maryland and its people in the areas of agriculture, youth development, public health, and environmental responsibility for over 100 years.

The Maryland Innovation Extension is a natural progression for the university, as it features more than 60 entrepreneurial programs in a rich ecosystem that drives technology commercialization, advances entrepreneurship, and cultivates innovation.