Catalyzing the Virginia Tech’s role in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Region

The Catalyst Program at Virginia Tech, with support from the US Economic Development Administration

The region surrounding Virginia Tech is restructuring away from a historic reliance on manufacturing, railroads and agriculture towards higher education, healthcare and technology. This transition has highlighted a key challenge: the Roanoke-Blacksburg region lags behind peers in university research commercialization. While the region has some access to angel and early stage funds it lacks a resource dedicated to seeking promising technologies, “derisking” them, and putting them on a path to market.

The Catalyst Program, a collaboration of The Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, the Office of Economic Development and other partners, will develop the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. The program will foster collaboration between innovators and entrepreneurs to:
• Understand challenges in translating university research into the private sector;
• Navigate the commercialization process; and
• Find appropriate human and financial resources to maximize success.

The Catalyst Community will be comprised of three groups:
• Catalyst Students, undergraduates from all colleges of the university connecting inventive people with next-generation concepts.
• Catalyst Faculty from across the university with a deep understanding of their field of expertise, a broad knowledge of research campus-wide, and supported by graduate students.
• Catalyst Companies, highly invested industry affiliates who will bring technical challenges and business opportunities to the Community.

The Community will be supported by a Regional Advisory Board, university, community, and industry partners who will guide the process. Members of the board will include:
• Leading firms from sectors representative of the region;
• Government and non-profit partners including: the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, Center for Innovative Technology, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, New River Valley Regional Commission, Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, and New River Valley Economic Development Alliance;
• New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Board who will connect with underserved populations;
• VT Intellectual Properties; and
• VTKnowledgeWorks providing business launch services.

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