Innovation Hot Spot to create hub for incubators

Innovation Hot Spot to create hub for incubators

Funding from state, UB aids entrepreneurship initiative

By David Robinson | Buffalo News
on December 2, 2014

A group of eight Western New York incubators are getting $750,000 in funding to create an Innovation Hot Spot aimed at increasing collaboration among the facilities and expanding their programs.

The WNY Innovation Hot Spot is envisioned as a way to turn local incubators into a stronger business development tool for the region and to help students develop entrepreneurial skills. It is backed by $250,000 in state funding and $500,000 in matching funds from its partners, with most coming from the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach.

“It’s an expansion of what’s out there now and the addition of new stuff, as well,” said Thomas Murdock, the Innovation Hot Spot’s manager. “We certainly weren’t collaborating like we could. This is a giant step in that direction.”

The hot spot brings together eight incubators – stretching from Buffalo and its suburbs to Lockport and Dunkirk and Alfred – that currently serve more than 140 fledgling companies. It was one of five similar facilities statewide to receive the designation last December through the state’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative.

“This allows us to combine our resources and provide incubated companies with the kinds of tools previously unavailable in Western New York,” said Alan Rae, executive director of the Ceramics Corridor Innovation Center in Alfred, which is part of the hot spot program.

“There’s so much we all want to do, but time and resources are always scarce,” said Dan Magnuszewski, managing director of the Z80 Labs incubator in Buffalo, another hot spot participant.

The hot spot plans to offer participating companies access to consultants who can provide expertise and mentoring to those businesses. It also will offer a program to help companies prepare pitches aimed at attracting funding from investors. The hot spot also will give participating companies access to a group of vendors, from attorneys and accountants to insurance and marketing officials, who have agreed to work with the startups at predetermined rates.

As part of the hot spot program, an eLab course now offered at the University at Buffalo that helps students with business ideas gain practical insight into entrepreneurship is being offered to students from schools across Western New York. And an annual pitch contest held at UB to help students develop a brief pitch for their business idea now is offered to students from across the region.

As part of the hot spot program, participating companies also are eligible for a series of tax incentives that exempt them from most state business taxes for a five-year period. The incentives are similar to those available under the Start-Up NY program, but exclude the exemption from state income taxes for employees, Murdock said.

Other incubators that are part of the hot spot include the Beecher Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the Directed Energy Virtual Incubator, Harrison Place in Lockport, the Fredonia Technology Incubator in Dunkirk, the UB BioSciences Incubator in Buffalo, and the UB Technology Incubator in Amherst.