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Texas State U-San Marcos Adopts UMBC's Activate Program for Women-Led Startup Companies

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Texas State University-San Marcos said last week that it has adopted a program originally developed at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County to help women entrepreneurs form companies around university-developed technologies.

The program, called "Achieving the Commercialization of Technology in Ventures through Applied Training for Entrepreneurs," or Activate, will recruit women with technology-development or business experience and provide them with entrepreneurial training and support over the course of a year.

And although Activate will not focus exclusively on life sciences ventures, it will cull available technologies from universities throughout the state, which collectively garnered some $1.1 billion in research funding from the National Institutes of Health in 2007.

The program will also receive undisclosed partial funding through a grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a $200 million state-funded initiative designed to invest in promising science and technology programs throughout the state.

Terry Golding, director of the Center for Research Commercialization at Texas State, which is administering the Activate program, said that it is one element in Texas State's goal of increasing entrepreneurship in tech industries for under-represented communities within the San Marcos region and the Austin-San Antonio corridor.

Activate is open to the public, and men can participate, but the program will particularly focus on recruiting and training women entrepreneurs.

"A focus on a program that serves women is a good complement to other efforts to increase representation from other under-represented groups in technology entrepreneurship," Golding said in a statement. "We want to encourage participation from women in fields of business and science."

According to the program's website, Activate will be led by experienced entrepreneurs and will combine three elements: entrepreneurship and business instruction; mentoring and skills development; and networking with regional resources.

Participants must pay a tuition fee of $2,000 to participate, but qualified applicants are eligible for scholarships, according to the website.

Texas State is borrowing the Activate idea from UMBC, which started the program in 2004 under a five-year, $700,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The UMBC Activate program has created some two dozen startup companies from Maryland universities and research institutions since its inception. UMBC also recently won a three-year, $600,000 grant from NSF to continue to program and focus specifically on technologies and postdocs at the National Institutes of Health (see BTW, 8/19/2009).

Another goal of the latest UMBC grant was to work with the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School to further develop the program in the hopes that other universities and research institutions around the US might adopt the idea — which Texas State is doing after witnessing the success of UMBC's program.

"It has been successful there," Billy Covington, associate vice president for research and federal relations at Texas State, said in a statement. "Based on our initial feedback from individuals approached in our area, there appears to be considerable interest in the program."

Terry Chase Hazell, an experience biotech entrepreneur who led the Maryland Activate program, will now lead the Texas State version.

"In Maryland Activate, I've helped women license technologies and start companies," Hazell said in a statement. "With the help of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund grant, we're going to help women start companies in Texas."

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