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fostering entrepreneurship through a-state innovate
submitted by Arkansas State University, Office of University Communications, photography by Audrey Poff

One thing that Arkansas State University has always done, and done well, is put knowledge and research together to make communities stronger. With the opening of the new Innovate System planned for June, A-State Innovate will serve as an ecosystem for entrepreneurs, a place where creativity comes to life.

“The A-State Innovate System is designed to help both students and community members,” said Ty Keller, who was hired last October to direct the system. “We aim to connect both innovators and entrepreneurs to resources that will help them create new products and/or start new businesses.”

Keller, a native of Jonesboro, comes to the A-State Innovation System from Engines Inc. He has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at A-State. Keller serves on the Jonesboro Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and is a graduate of Leadership Jonesboro.

“I am excited to be directing the A-State Innovation System,” said Keller. “Growing up in Northeast Arkansas, I am aware of our long line of successful entrepreneurs. It is an honor to be involved in a system that will build on that history and expand opportunities for both innovation and entrepreneurship. From idea to business implementation, A-State Innovate will bring together education, nonprofit, public and private sector support and resources to assist startup ventures.”

A-State Innovate is located in three different Jonesboro locations: The Garage at 219 South Church St., a maker space/collaboration space; The Shop at 5501 Krueger Drive, a machine shop/woodshop that will be located on the ASU-Newport-Jonesboro campus; and The Lab at 504 University Loop, a research facility located on the Jonesboro campus in the Arkansas Biosciences Institute (ABI).

Through the integration of innovation, start-up support, technology transfer and partnerships with business and communities, the Innovate System provides opportunities for entrepreneurs interested in connecting to business resources and helps to bring ideas to the marketplace.

“A-State Innovate is an entrepreneurship/innovation ecosystem, which means we will attempt to provide and connect members with everything necessary to create products or start businesses,” said Keller. “Our physical locations will provide tools for design and development and produce an atmosphere of collaboration with other innovators and entrepreneurs.”

The innovation system was born from an i6 Challenge grant for $500,000 awarded in February 2016 to the Delta Center for Economic Development (DCED) from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). A-State utilized the i6 funds to leverage local, state and federal partnerships for the creation. Combined with $886,967 in in-kind matching, A-State’s i6 project had $1.39 million in total support.

The goal for A-State Innovate, a collaborative regional partnership, is to meet two identified needs of the region: coordination and streamlining of support services and resources for entrepreneurs and inventors, and fostering opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship in rural east Arkansas communities.

“Our innovation system will provide guidance and help with most aspects of innovation and entrepreneurship, including help obtaining patents and trademarks and coordinating market research and business planning,” said Keller. “Once a member has developed a product and/or formulated a solid business plan, we will attempt to set the member up with mentors in their industry, as well as attempt to locate the funding necessary to start their business.
“We want to give our members all the tools necessary to pursue their innovative ideas. In some cases, that may mean they just want to build something cool for personal use. In other situations, members may have aspirations to start a new business or create and sell a new product. Regardless of their goals, we are here to help them achieve.”

Memberships will be available for both individuals and groups. For information on memberships at any of the A-State Innovate locations, email Keller at tykeller@astate.edu.