Launch Minnesota prepares to open next round of Innovation Grant applications

Launch Minnesota prepares to open next round of Innovation Grant applications

2022-07-13T05:13:33-04:00June 16th, 2022|Economy, Minneapolis-St. Paul|

Writer: Joshua Andino 

2 min read June 2022— Launch Minnesota, the state’s startup accelerator, is preparing to accept its next round of applications for $1.5 million Innovation Grants beginning July 10.

Spearheaded by Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the statewide initiative is designed to accelerate innovation and provide access to capital, educational resources and programming to help early-stage businesses grow.

In her interview with Invest:, Launch Minnesota Executive Director Neela Mollgaard explained the three-fold objective of the organization. “First, we want to get more capital in their hands, for high-tech startups where loans are not an option. The second is we want to ensure they are accessing the right resources and connections efficiently. Third, we’re working to make sure they have the skills, expertise and talent to bring their technology to market,” said Mollgaard.

To that end, the organization provides Innovation Grants, targeting the promising and innovative technology businesses across the state to help bring them to scale, and began 2022 by providing over $350,000 in grants. The program provides two forms of funding that include business operation grants, where up to $35,000 is provided for operations that include research and development, direct expenses and technical support. 

The second offering from the Innovation Grants include matching funds from the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which are designed to promote small business involvement in federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D). The matching grants are for Phase I and Phase II companies, matching up to $35,000 for Phase I companies and $500,000 for Phase II companies. 

Funding is provided on a first-come, first-served basis and eligibility requirements can be reviewed on Launch Minnesota’s website. Mollgaard noted the program’s success, citing DEED’s analysis of PitchBook data where grantees collectively raised $35M, representing a $9 return for every Launch MN dollar invested and a $40 return for startups that secured private investment. 

Investor and Groove Capital Founding Partner Reed Robinson noted in his own conversation with Invest:, that Minnesota has made steady progress in cultivating its startup ecosystem. “What we’re seeing in this market has been at least 10 or 20 years in the making. Our startup ecosystem goes in waves. About 10 years ago it started coming back so we’ve been on this steady climb, which is measurable in the form of the number of companies and quality of companies,” said Robinson. “The entrepreneurs here work on complex things that a lot of people stay away from. This is where our expertise is. Our ecosystem has a robust support system, mentors, investors, accelerators and incubators that are vertically aligned with those categories.”

Similarly, Mollgaard explained how the state was helping to drive innovation in key sectors. “Minnesotans are fortunate that our state allocated funding to Launch Minnesota to focus on this important part of our economy today and into the future. We have seen our entrepreneurial ecosystem coalesce, and we’re seeing incredible innovation in Minnesota across healthcare, food and agriculture, clean energy, fintech, and software/IT industries.”

In an effort to address well-documented disparities, increased consideration is given to companies across greater Minnesota, as well as veteran-, minority- and women-owned businesses. Mollgaard told Invest. “Equity and inclusion is at the core of all we do and is a key focus for the Minnesota DEED office at all levels. We’re working toward more equitable opportunities and communities by putting dollars in the hands of our startups – with an emphasis on minority, women, veterans, and Greater Minnesota companies – as well as providing expertise and connecting our startup community to make it easier for individuals to bring their ideas to market,” Mollgaard said, noting that 67% of Innovation Grants doled out thus far had been to founders that were women, minorities, veterans and individuals living in greater Minnesota. 

Grant applicants can expect a review by September of this year, and will be notified of their status by mid-October. 


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