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Ideadvance Seed Fund opens 12th round of funding with expanded eligibility requirements and tracks for established Wisconsin businesses

MADISON, Wis. – Ideadvance Seed Fund encourages small businesses looking to solve problems in new ways and diversify into new markets to apply by July 9, 2021.

This 12th round of money and mentorship for Wisconsin-based businesses now includes expanded eligibility and tracks for established small businesses with innovative approaches.

The Ideadvance program fosters teams that want to advance a scalable, profitable business model. Grant dollars are earned after demonstrating key learnings toward commercialization goals. Awardees are supported by a teaching team, mentors and the program manager as they work through the Ideadvance Lean Startup program.

“I wish I would have gone through this program when I started RCI Engineering about 15 years ago because it would have saved me a lot of failures and headaches along the way,” said RCI Engineering founder Randy Clark. “Just understanding how to talk to the customer and what they struggle with in their daily life, then finding a way to fine tune your solution to correlate to that, is everything.”

Changes to the Ideadvance program this year make it possible for businesses with a team member associated with any UW System institution, including UW-Madison, to compete in this grant program.

“Previously, only founders with a UW System affiliation were eligible. The eligibility changes expand entrepreneurial training and incorporates technical know-how from university faculty, staff, students and alumni into innovative businesses across Wisconsin,” said New Idea Concierge Idella Yamben. “We believe this will pull out more innovative ideas across Wisconsin, improve economic impacts and better meet the Wisconsin Idea mission.”

Last year’s awards went to a range of ideas, from an art-inspired new solar design to an innovative beverage product incorporating fruit-based shrubs.

The deadline to apply is July 9. Diverse teams from all parts of Wisconsin are invited to connect early with New Idea Concierge Idella Yamben or Brian Walsh ( or 608-263-3315) to take advantage of resources that can guide them through the application process. An introductory video is also available.

Ideadvance, launched in 2014, has awarded grants to 73 distinct awardees, totaling $2.7 million in funding disbursements.

New this year, there are two Stage 1 tracks,

  1. Small Business Innovation ($15,000): Applicants are early stage, likely startup, with at least two dedicated full-time or part-time employees. These awardees are likely to pursue follow-on funding through revenue, angels or venture capital funding, and therefore focus Lean Startup learning objectives toward a sales launch with pilot customers and consider debt financing and/or equity financing.
  2. Partnered Innovation ($25,000): Applicants may be established businesses or startups with no more than 50 employees and appropriate annual receipt size exclusions. Awardees should be actively engaged with or expect to require partner expertise toward commercialization of an innovative process or deep technology. Partnered Innovation Track awardees are likely to have more technology risk and pursue follow-on funding through a partner strategy, grants, contracts, or equity investment; and therefore, focus Lean Startup learning objectives towards a pilot or fully executed partner agreement or engagement for competitive grant/contract, debt and/or equity financing.

Stage 2, with follow-on funding up to $30,000, helps a select few to advance their business models to deliver customer solutions and attract investors.

“One of the lessons we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that innovation is critical to advancing the economic well-being of all Wisconsin citizens,” said Missy Hughes, secretary and CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). “Ideadvance is an exciting way to encourage innovation and facilitate connections between the academic and business worlds. It provides an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to develop the knowledge base they need to bring their ideas to market while offering businesses new insights into the research and training that’s being done throughout the University of Wisconsin System. We’re pleased that WEDC can be part of this important program.”  

To apply, go to wisconsinctc.org/ideadvance.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a program unit at the University of Wisconsin System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging and innovative, established technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $300 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at www.wisconsinctc.org; follow @WisconsinCTC on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

WEDC leads economic development efforts for the state by providing resources, operational support and financial assistance to companies, partners and communities in Wisconsin. Working with more than 600 partners across the state, including regional economic development organizations, academic institutions and industry clusters, WEDC develops and delivers solutions that help businesses, communities and people maximize their potential In Wisconsin. Learn more at www.wedc.org; follow @WEDCNews on Twitter.

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