IC² Institute 2019 grant solicitation for research on rural entrepreneurship

**Note the applications are now closed**

The IC² Institute announces a grant solicitation supporting research by UT Austin faculty on the theme “Innovation and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural and Small City Environments.” The submission deadline is March 29, 2019.

The new IC² Institute grant solicitation provides funds supporting research collaborations to tenured and tenure-track faculty at The University of Texas at Austin to accelerate research in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems in rural or small city environments.

IC² anticipates funding six to eight research projects of $100,000 over 24 months in an ongoing effort to stimulate research by faculty across all disciplines at UT Austin focused on key topics of interest to the Institute.

Studies addressing this topic are encouraged from researchers in public policy, social science, engineering and solid science, business, technology, economics, education, arts and culture.

Results from these projects will be presented at an IC² Institute-sponsored conference in spring 2021.

Application procedure

Applications must be submitted online via InfoReady Review ( by Friday, March 29, 2019. Specific application procedures and submission and reporting requirements are detailed in the RFP.

Questions? Please contact Gregory Pogue at

Why rural and small city entrepreneurship?

The sociological and economic gaps between rural and urban communities have grown significantly in the United States and the world. As late at 1940, almost 45% of the U.S. population lived in rural regions. Urbanization has decreased this percentage to <20% as of 2019, exacerbating the existing social, economic and opportunity divide between rural and urban regions. The urban and rural gap may be described by population shifts, but the impact cuts across the fabric of society, creating sociological and economic divisions leading to political discord, technological inequity, disparity in economic participation/reward, disproportional disease prevalence, and poor allocation and use of natural resources. These issues are not just in the U.S. but are shared with the world. In 2018, >55% of the world’s population lives in urban areas. The hyper-urbanization trend is expected to continue in the coming decades increasing the urban living population to 68% by 2050, compounding current city challenges and introducing new ones in virtually all countries.

As noted in recent reports to the U.S. Congress and other published studies, the economic and opportunity gap has widened between rural and urban communities across the United States since the Great Recession. In the U.S., the economic shock of the recession hit rural counties and states harder than those dominated by urban communities with many rural areas having yet to fully recover. For example, employment in urban areas normalized to pre-recession levels by 2013, whereas rural job growth continued to lag pre-recession levels in 2017. Further, sluggish wage growth of 3.8% in rural areas is outstripped by the >5.5% growth in metropolitan areas. This can be dramatically observed in Texas when reviewing data from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. According to the 2010 census, per capita income is also about $3,000 less in the 191 Texas counties classified as rural than in the 63 non-rural counties. Indeed, the 18 most heavily urbanized counties in Texas have a per capita income almost $5,000 more than the remaining 236 counties in the state.

The dramatic loss of jobs from 2008-2010, the income gap, and the slow recovery of high-paying jobs in rural regions have led many residents to migrate to urban environments to find new opportunities. This migration has exacerbated the decline in rural population and supported significant urban population growth since 2010 and attendant infrastructure overuse and overcrowding. Rural population decline is compounded by the geographic remoteness of communities and lack of online connectivity (39% of rural residents lack access to broadband compared to only 4% of urban residents). Further, underinvestment in rural infrastructure impairs travel as roads, bridges and water infrastructure require urgent repair to facilitate efficient transport across these regions. Limited virtual connectivity coupled with physical distance restricts business communications and increases the costs of logistics and transportation, reducing company investments in rural regions.

Most rural economies are structured to support a single or a small cluster of industries and are usually dependent on the value of natural and agricultural resources in the region. The lack of economic diversification makes rural communities more vulnerable to the impact of individual company decisions, macro-economic shocks and the growing trend of technological displacement. Recent natural disasters in the Coastal Bend region of Texas have further revealed the fragility of rural and isolated city economies to such perturbations.

The growing societal focus on technology, robotics, data and artificial intelligence of the new economy is expected to create further distance between rural and urban communities. The gap in higher education graduates, often viewed as a prerequisite for participation in the new economy, has grown by 25% between rural and communities from 2000-2016. Lower educational attainment and population decline combine to restrict the number of individuals available to respond to government grant applications, receive new federal funds or create new cutting-edge businesses at the same rate as in urban areas.

As rural society, agricultural products and natural resources contribute greatly to the U.S. culture and economy, action is required to remove these disadvantages from rural economies and create new models and incentives for rural communities to thrive and grow. This is especially true in Texas where rural regions make up a dominant part of its land mass and local governments. Economic development in rural regions is a high priority in Texas, as it is for many other midwestern and southern states – not to mention many other developing nations whose rural population far exceeds that of the U.S.

Entrepreneurship is a core backbone of economic development. The University of Texas at Austin has long been a home for scholars whose research explores business development and it continues to have strength in this area. The number of scholars across campus involved in the IC² Institute, the McCombs Entrepreneurship Minor, the Herb Kelleher Center, the RGK Center, the Bridging Disciplines Programs on entrepreneurship, and the many groups on campus that are part of the Entrepreneurship Coordination Committee all attest to the vibrant community of research around the topic of entrepreneurship on campus. The IC² Institute aims to galvanize this community of scholars to focus on the challenges and prospects for developing business ecosystems in rural areas and small, isolated cities.

Why the IC² Institute?

This research focus fits in with the IC² Institute’s long history of research and practical engagement in the economic development of urban, rural and small city environments. In the past 25 years IC² has conducted 29 regional economic studies across the world, including ten in Texas alone, reviewing the innovation and economic growth strategies of urban and rural regions and providing detailed case studies illustrating rural/urban challenges. Based on IC²’s groundbreaking research on the Austin entrepreneurial ecosystem in the 1980s and 90s, the Austin Model was defined and subsequently disseminated across the U.S. and 43 countries around the world. This model is based on the diffusion of knowledge from science and technology centers into economic practice of regions through technology transfer and entrepreneurship. The leadership of Austin as a technology and entrepreneurship hub is widely recognized and IC² will follow the pattern of its founder, Dr. George Kozmetsky, to identify new, unstructured problems of world importance to study and engage solutions. Toward this end, IC² has since completed numerous benchmarking studies in rural and isolated cities in Texas, including the Rio Grande Valley, San Angelo, and Waco, as well as other regions in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia. In addition, IC²’s Bureau of Business Research has a rich legacy of economic research in all regions of Texas going back to the 1920s. A new model for economic development based on innovation is required for rural and small, isolated cities. Our new research initiative seeks to catalyze new studies to define improved and fitted strategies to improve the competitiveness of these regions.

This solicitation follows the successful Insight to Innovation Grant Program conducted between 2017-2018. Eleven grants were provided to UT Austin faculty which engaged over 10 student researchers at UT Austin, produced many peer-reviewed publications and a number of others in preparation or under review, and supported a wealth of scholarly presentations. Further, student-led investigations were conducted in Nepal and Japan through UT courses supported by Insight to Innovation grants.

References used:

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South Asia Connect conducts Entrepreneurship Week 2 at Nexus

IC²’s South Asia Connect program, working with the Nexus Startup Hub @ American Center in New Delhi, conducted an intensive week-long training program for 20 entrepreneurs from five South Asian countries in early December. The entrepreneurs from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are founders of traditional or technology-driven enterprises, many solving local problems and serving their fellow citizens.

The focus of the training was to build market-fitted strategies and connect the entrepreneurs to Nexus networks and resources.

IC² and Nexus staff leading the training were joined by mentors from the South Asia Connect Leader Network, a group of ten leaders of entrepreneurial support organizations in the region.

Both the Nexus and South Asia Connect programs are sponsored by the US Department of State and carried out by the IC² Institute. The event was the second Entrepreneur Week held by the programs.

Participating leaders and entrepreneurs were selected through an extensive outreach program in the fall of 2018 with US Embassies and American Spaces throughout the region.

In an initial phase, SAC country leaders mentored a large cohort of entrepreneurs through IC²’s online course and selected the best-suited four entrepreneurs from their respective countries to join the SAC Entrepreneur Week activities in Delhi.

Training during the week focused on market research, value propositions, sustainable revenue models, conducting stakeholder interviews and preparing pitches. Advanced training sessions for entrepreneurial leaders were provided by Nexus and IC² leadership.

As a final phase in the SAC program, five entrepreneurs who exhibit high growth potential were selected to join an eight-week immersive training experience as part of Nexus’ sixth pre-incubation cohort beginning in January 2019.

South Asia Connect, December 2018   South Asia Connect, December 2018

South Asia Connect, December 2018   South Asia Connect, December 2018

South Asia Connect, December 2018   South Asia Connect, December 2018

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Nexus and three portfolio companies on CNBC

Watch this in-depth report from CNBC TV18 on IC²’s Nexus program in India and three Nexus startup companies: Roadbounce, Morphedo, and Escrowffrr.

Nexus on CNBC TV18

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IC² in the news: South Asia Connect, Earthly, ICON, Kriya, and Yotta

IC² programs and portfolio companies have recently been featured by TIME, NPR, the Austin American-Statesman, and several international publications.

Kriya on NPR  ICON in TIME  Yotta in Statesman  Earthly in Statesman

IC²’s South Asia Connect program, which links entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship support organizations in five countries in the South Asia region, was featured in the prominent Sri Lankan tech publication ReadMe.

Kriya Labs, a startup in IC²’s Nexus program in New Delhi, was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition. Kriya turns farmers’ agricultural waste into profitable fiber products.

Glenn Robinson, program manager for IC²’s programs in Andhra Pradesh and Bhutan, has become a regular columnist in several news and business publications in the region.

ATI member ICON, maker of a 3D printer for houses, was honored with a spot in TIME’s 2018 Inventions of the Year.

Austin Technology Incubator member company Yotta Solar was featured in the Austin American-Statesman for their ambitious plan to reach a wide markeet with their solar energy storage solution.

ATI member Earthly Labs was also featured in the Statesman. Earthly captures CO₂ from the beer brewing process so small brewers can reuse it to make better beer.

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IC² helps launch entrepreneurship programs at Alamo Colleges

Training sessions at IC² kick off expansion of programs at the San Antonio community college district.

Alamo Colleges District logoFor over two years, the IC² Institute has been working with Alamo Colleges District in San Antonio, the city’s community college district. Alamo Colleges administers education, training and degree programs across five college campuses in San Antonio. Growing in part out of discussions between Greg Pogue of the IC² Institute and Bruce Leslie, then Alamo Colleges Chancellor, the colleges started The Learning Company, a district-wide initiative bringing entrepreneurship skills to students as they bring their startup ideas to market.

On November 16-17, the IC² Institute trained college champions who will drive program expansion at each college location. Presenters in the two-day session included Greg Pogue, Cliff Zintgraff, Art Markman, John Daly, and Marco Bravo of IC², as well as Nina Means from the Austin Community College Fashion Incubator and Austin entrepreneurs from IC²’s FASTForward program.

Incidentally, congratulations to the Alamo Colleges District, the first community college district in the U.S. to receive a prestigious Baldrige Award!

Alamo Colleges training at the IC² Institute

Alamo Colleges training at the IC² Institute

Alamo Colleges training at the IC² Institute

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Art Markman named director of the IC² Institute

Art MarkmanArt Markman, the Annabel Irion Worsham Centennial Professor of Psychology and Marketing, has been appointed director of the IC² Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, effective Dec. 1, 2018.

Markman succeeds Gregory Pogue, who has served as the institute’s interim director since 2016 and will continue to serve as deputy executive director. Markman has been the IC² Institute’s research director since 2012.

“With his active, imaginative approach to innovation research, his ability to make that research accessible to people outside of the academy and his deep connections to the faculty, Art Markman is the perfect choice for the directorship of IC²,” said Daniel Jaffe, vice president for research. “I’m looking forward to seeing how a dynamic, creative director like Art can make IC² into the critical element of the UT innovation ecosystem that it deserves to be.”

Markman has published more than 150 scholarly works about cognitive science, decision-making and organizational behavior. He is also the founding director of the Human Dimensions of Organizations program in the College of Liberal Arts, which teaches current and future leaders in business, the nonprofit sector, government and the military about how people, groups and cultures influence the workplace.

Beyond the UT campus, however, he’s probably best known as the co-host of KUT’s “Two Guys on Your Head” radio show and podcast, where he and Butler School of Music professor Bob Duke explore the human mind with a unique mix of research, humor and everyday relevance.

“The roots of IC² are tied deeply to Austin’s emergence as a national center of innovation and entrepreneurship. It has been a source of cutting-edge work as well as research-based education programs that have spread best practices to entrepreneurs around the world,” Markman explained. “I am honored to be given the opportunity to support a new generation of research in the path from idea-to-product-to-company as well as the creation of ecosystems that nurture new businesses. This work will enable The University of Texas to maintain its role as a leading source of practical knowledge about how communities enhance the growth of new ventures.”

The IC² Institute was established in 1977 as a “think and do” tank by George Kozmetsky, a former dean of the McCombs School of Business. Through the Austin Technology Incubator and its many other programs, IC² serves as a technology incubator and accelerator and is devoted to researching the intersection of industry, government and academia. Its mission is to promote entrepreneurship and strengthen regional economies, both locally and abroad.

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Selected books by Art Markman:

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ATI announces launch of Circular Economy incubator

On October 16, IC²’s Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) introduced a fifth vertical within its portfolio group, a Circular Economy Incubator, to support entrepreneurs and startups whose mission is to provide solutions that contribute to a zero-waste world. ATI now operates one of only three circular economy incubators in the country.

ATI recognizes that moving forward with a circular economy incubator is a vital step toward solving one of the world’s most pressing problems: redesigning the reuse and recycling processes of circular products. Mark Sanders, currently COO of ATI, will also serve as director of the ATI Circular Economy Incubator.

Circular Economy: A global challenge
A circular economy works to maximize the life-cycle of products and materials by revolutionizing manufacturing processes to ensure the possibility of reuse and recycling. It’s estimated that 350 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year, and despite the efforts of manufacturers and consumers, little of this is ultimately recycled. Most is destined for landfill or joins the five trillion pieces of plastic polluting the world’s oceans. Taking up to 400 years to degrade, plastic is just one of many circular products that plague the environment.

ATI supporter of City of Austin’s Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan
ATI made the announcement at the first Circular Economy Roundup in collaboration with the City of Austin and Austin Resource Recovery whose focuses are on growing the zero waste industry in order to create well-paying local jobs, attract investment, and support the necessary infrastructure for a resilient circular economy in Central Texas. ATI Circular Economy member companies are a contributor to the City of Austin’s Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan which has a goal to reach Zero Waste by 2040 which means reducing the amount of discarded materials sent to landfills by 90 percent. Austin Resource Recovery is on board to contribute to this goal as well providing a wide range of services designed to transform waste into resources.

“There is no waste in nature – byproducts become the fertile soil that something else needs to grow. The vision of a circular economy is for that to become true of our cities as well, which is only possible with highly innovative entrepreneurs and an ecosystem of support around them,” said Natalie Betts, Recycling Economic Development Program Manager with the City of Austin. “The partnership with ATI is a major milestone on Austin’s journey to becoming a truly circular city.”

ATI Circular Economy Incubator
The ATI Circular Economy Incubator links entrepreneurs with academia, industry, and government to solve global challenges in design and reuse. Through customized and deep engagements, ATI works across Texas to co-design, pilot and test circular economy technology and business model innovations to find viable solutions to this global problem. Mitch Jacobson, director of ATI, emphasizes the incubator’s core focuses by describing how “We’re doubling down on deep tech, which involves trying to solve big problems with big solutions. That can be clean air, clean water, drugs around cancer or new carbon capture technology. Now, we add Circular Economy to that impactful list.”

Portfolio Companies
Inaugural members of the Circular Economy portfolio include:

  • ICON is a construction technologies company which is revolutionizing homebuilding through 3D printing.
  • Smarter Sorting uses patented technology to turn incinerator bound consumer chemical waste into a product primed for reuse. Combining big data, smart tech and business know how, Smarter Sorting is leading the way in pushing for a truly circular economy.
  • Leaf & Flour’s process turns distillery by-products into flour for food production (in pre-incubation).

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ICON logoSmarter Sorting logoLeaf and Flour logo

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“Austin is a tech hot spot. It wasn’t always this way”

IC² researcher and Fellow featured in Statesman article on how landing MCC made Austin a tech hub.

IC² Senior Research Scientist David Gibson and IC² Fellow Pike Powers were featured this week in an article in the Austin American-Statesman on the successful effort to bring the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp. to Austin in the 1980s. Austin’s win against a field of 57 cities changed national perception of the city and The University of Texas at Austin, which led to the recruitment of subsequent large manufacturing and R&D facilities and the ensuing Austin tech boom.

MCC was the first for-profit computer industry R&D consortium in the US, created at a time of anxiety over Japanese competition. “The MCC was an inflection point for Austin’s evolution. People on the West and East Coasts didn’t think of Austin too much before it won the MCC,” said Gibson, who co-authored a noted book on the founding and impact of the consortium.

Read the article

For more information:

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IC² announces new business acceleration program in Bhutan

DHI Business Acceleration Program will help Bhutanese entrepreneurs launch new ventures.

The IC² Institute of The University of Texas at Austin is pleased to announce the commencement of a new project in Bhutan, together with Druk Holding and Investments (DHI – ). This initiative is called the DHI Business Acceleration Program, or DHI BizAP.

DHI BizAP logoDHI was established in 2007, comprising 20 different companies operating in the manufacturing, energy, natural resources, financial, communication, aviation, trading and real estate sectors. The Royal Charter for DHI mandates to “promote and encourage entrepreneurship and business development through venture capital and other required institutional support.” In keeping with the important mandate to promote and support private sector development, a holistic approach to entrepreneurship development is proposed, initially targeted mainly towards promoting Cottage and Small Industries (CSI) sector.

DHI has engaged with the IC² Institute due to the proven IC² methodology, which has been employed with success in over 40 countries around the world, creating more than USD $3 billion in economic impact. IC² programs have taught best practices in technology transfer, entrepreneurship, incubation management and new enterprise commercial acceleration.

This program has already begun, with online training of DHI staff via the IC² Innovation Readiness Series™, with in-country activities that began in September, and with a formal launch supported by His Majesty the King of Bhutan in conjunction with the Royal Wedding Day Seventh Anniversary celebrations on October 13.

DHI BizAP includes:

Training: structured training for selected Bhutanese entrepreneurs, with focus on commercializing business ideas and launching businesses in the market, delivered by global experts in innovation and entrepreneurship, using the proven and patented IC² entrepreneurship training methodology. Selected entrepreneurs will experience a balanced mixture of face-to-face, virtual distance learning and homework assignments.

Funding: opportunity for all entrepreneurs selected to pitch their business to the Business Accelerator Fund panel, and the chance to qualify for capital infusion.

Mentorship: establishment of mentoring relationships, in both Bhutan and internationally, to aid the entrepreneurs in developing a high-impact entrepreneurial venture, building business linkages and networks, and accessing markets for their goods and services.

Advisory services: experts available to provide specific mentoring HR, legal, accounting, etc.

For each of the three 3-month cohorts comprising this initial program, a total of 15 of the applicants exhibiting the highest potential for success will be competitively selected, based on proven IC² Institute selection criteria.

The DHI initiative is the latest in a series of IC² Institute engagements in the South Asia region going back over a decade. Currently, IC² operates the Nexus Startup Hub at the American Center in New Delhi; the XLr8AP Technology Accelerator in Andhra Pradesh, India; and the South Asia Connect program, which links entrepreneurs and startup ecosystem leaders from Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India.

For more information:

DHI BizAP, Bhutan

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New guide to resources for startups and innovators at UT Austin

The Herb Kelleher Center in the McCombs School of Business has released the 2018 edition of their “A Guide to UT Austin’s Startup Ecosystem,” a directory of units, programs and organizations supporting innovation throughout the university.

A Guide to UT Austin's Startup Ecosystem

The guide notes UT Austin’s special position as a top-notch research institution in a hotbed for startups.

AUSTIN is the No. 1 city for startup activity.
The 2016 Kauffman Index

MCCOMBS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS has one of the top-ranked entrepreneurship programs in the world.
U.S. News and World Report, 2016

UT AUSTIN ranks No. 8 in the world for educating startup founders who successfully raise money for new ventures.
Business Insider, 2016

UT AUSTIN is No. 18 among public universities nationwide.
U.S. News & World Report, 2016

The guide is available for download here.

See pages 10-12 for the IC² Institute’s programs including the Austin Technology Incubator, Southwest I-Corps, and Student Entrepreneur Acceleration and Launch.

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