he U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded Tech Hubs designations in October to 31 entities around the U.S., making them eligible to apply for Tech Hubs Phase 2 Notice of Funding Opportunity grants worth $40 million to $70 million across several projects. Among them is the Kansas City Inclusive Biologics and Biomanufacturing Tech Hub (KC BioHub) operated by BioNexus KC. The designation adds credence to the region’s strength in human and animal healthcare and biomanufacturing.
Startups hoping to join that industry cluster and others in Kansas have no shortage of resources to help them get going. The Kansas Innovation & Technology Enterprise (KITE), for example, has several resources for helping entrepreneurs find access to capital and facilitate commercialization. A Proof of Concept incentive fills the funding gap between federal research grants and venture funding. It helps establish entrepreneurial ventures and commercialize innovations developed at public universities in Kansas.
Twelve Small Business Development Centers in Kansas help businesses with fewer than 500 employees with advisory services in such areas as registration and business plans. More than 250,000 small businesses operate in the state.
The Kansas Department of Commerce administers the Kansas Angel Investor Tax Credit Program that facilitates equity investment in the early stages of product development. It requires a business applying for the tax credit to be involved in developing an innovative or proprietary product or service.
Higher Education Connections
Small Business R&D Acceleration Grants, approved by the Kansas Legislature in 2022, help small businesses on the road to commercialization. They can help a small business modify a product to enter a new market.
“It partners smaller businesses with Kansas public higher education institutions who will support the business through engagement and mutual benefit,” the Department of Commerce explains. “Prospective grant recipients who work with a public higher education institution to conduct research and development can receive a 50/50 matching grant up to $25,000 for research and development cost at the public institution.”
Meanwhile, Kansas was one of five states to receive State Small Business Credit Initiative funding from the federal government in 2022.
The Sunflower State was awarded more than $69 million for its GROWKS Loan Fund and the GROWKS Angel Capital Support Program that make capital more available in underserved areas. GROWKS loan programs match funding from financial institutions and target minority, women-led and economically disadvantaged businesses among other borrowers. GROWKS is administered by the Department of Commerce and NetWork Kansas, a non-profit agency that connects startups and existing businesses to growth resources.
In October, ground broke in Hays for the Grow Hays MicroFactory, a 30,000-sq-ft. incubator for manufacturers. It’s one of 35 projects funded by the Department of Commerce’s $100 million Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) grant program. The MicroFactory will be a launch pad for small manufacturers to get their businesses up and running before moving to their own premises.
“The facility will be designed specifically to meet the need of manufacturers with various amounts of space allocated to tenants as needed,” said Doug Williams, executive director of Grow Hays Inc., at the event. “Rental rates for the space will be well below market rates to ensure businesses have every opportunity to succeed and grow.”