Shawnee State University will be awarded $1,498,981 in federal grants and matching dollars to support local entrepreneurship and innovation.


It was announced that Shawnee State University and the Kricker Innovation Hub have secured a Venture Challenge grant via the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Build to Scale (B2S) program. Shawnee State worked with the Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) to apply for this grant as part of CORI’s 2022 Rural Innovation Initiative, a technical assistance program empowering rural communities to create inclusive digital economies that support scalable entrepreneurship and tech job creation.

Build To Scale awardees map of the US

With the $1,498,981 provided by the Venture Challenge grant and matching funds, Shawnee State plans to implement Project LEAP: Launching our Entrepreneurship Accelerator Program at its Kricker Innovation Hub. This effort will create a Digital and Immersive Technology accelerator program that will build on university strengths and scale up the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“This award makes it possible for the university to scale up several programs that anchor an emerging innovation district that will transform downtown Portsmouth,” described Eric Braun, Vice President for Advancement and Enrollment Management at Shawnee State. “We are so grateful for CORI, and for the continued support of the EDA. Together, we are building an innovation ecosystem and tech entrepreneurship infrastructure that is the pathway to a prosperous future for southern Ohio.”

The Rural Innovation Initiative was launched in 2018 by CORI and its mission-aligned collaborating organization, Rural Innovations Strategies, Inc. (RISI). To date, this program has graduated 29 communities and helped rural organizations secure more than $29.9 million to develop strategies and build out programs that can accelerate their local digital economic development efforts.

“The work that goes into the Rural Innovation Initiative process requires intense focus, unwavering optimism, and a clear vision for the future — which is why it’s been so exciting to watch these communities receive Build to Scale funding,” said Matt Dunne, Founder and Executive Director of CORI. “This is the fourth year we’ve run this program, and each year we grow more inspired by the commitment these rural leaders have to transform their local economies with new tech pathways that serve their community. We look forward to seeing what is next for them as our Network continues to grow.”

Shawnee State University is joined by several local partners in its grant application, including the ECDI Women’s Business Center, Appalachian Investors Alliance, OhioX, the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, EPIC Mission, and Scioto County Economic Development.

The 2022 Build to Scale program awarded 51 grants to applicants from 31 states. The grants represent a combined $47 million in federal investment. Portsmouth was one of just eight rural applicants to receive the award this year.

Portsmouth is also a member of CORI’s Rural Innovation Network, a growing collective of rural communities in 24 states across the country that are working to train local residents in digital skills, employ them in new economy jobs, and empower them to launch the startups that will drive their future economies.

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