December 2014

Hitting Our Stride


In 2014, the Iowa Innovation Corporation had a productive year.


With our many partners throughout Iowa's innovation ecosystem, we made critical connections that assisted innovation in a number of ways.  We did this by ensuring funding was available from proof of concept through next stage needs; we communicated with companies that have received funding to identify ongoing challenges and opportunities; we facilitated conversations about an advanced manufacturing center; and so much more.


There is no doubt we have set a great foundation for the future. In 2015, we are planning to:


  • Implement a state wide mentoring program that will be available to assist companies in a variety of ways including linking them to resources that can assist in marketing, market research, leadership development, etc. The mentoring program is expected to roll out in the first quarter of 2015. 
  • Prepare for a potential i6 project to create the Innovation Iowa Commercialization Center, a center that expands the previous i6 project create a true statewide effort to promote the commercialization of innovative technologies. While we wait for word from the Department of Commerce on whether we have received the grant, we continue look for other ways we can continue to expand the commercialization model.
  • Examine ways to facilitate industry applied research. We'll approach this in the same way we reviewed our SBIR/STTR Outreach program. We'll solicit feedback from our partners as well as review best practices from around the country.


To learn more about our 2014 accomplishments, we invite you to download our annual report here.




Editor's note: As the Iowa Innovation Corporation and the Iowa Economic Development Authority work to increase the number of successful SBIR/STTR grant applications, we have the opportunity to connect with some amazing companies. We recently caught up with Tom Swegle, CEO of MedCara. They recently applied for an SBIR/STTR grant.



Where is MedCara is in the business cycle?

We are an early-stage company with offices in Conrad and Coralville that uses existing drugs to create new products. While we haven't applied for approval of a new drug or new licensing, we are actively looking to create innovative ways to address dosing and drug needs.


What is your innovative technology?

We were looking at developing countries and looking at different drug needs. Dosing is a huge issue, particularly for children. We looked at how we could approach this, and settled on creating a medicated, fast dissolving lollipop. As we researched, we realized that there was also a need here in the United States.


Have you applied for either a SBIR/STTR grant in the past?

We applied for a STTR a few years ago, and it didn't go well. First, we didn't position the technology for the correct agency. Second, we totally we missed the finer notes of the technical application. We had several errors that raised red flags. As we looked through the reviewer notes, we realized that our ideas and technologies were fine, but through the application process we did little to inspire the confidence of those awarding the grants.

What is different this time?

We sought professional grant writing technical assistance through the Iowa Innovation Corporation's SBIR/STTR Outreach program, which allowed us to work with Accelagrant. There are not enough good things that I can say about them. They pushed us and forced us to ask questions that we weren't asking ourselves. For example, would we be willing to self fund if we didn't get the grant. This forced us to think through whether we would, and what difference that would make in the development process. Ultimately the federal agency you are applying to wants to know what you are going to do and how you are going to do it.

We are currently in the waiting process, but we do know that our application was successfully submitted.

Any advice to others applying for SBIR/STTR grants?

I have two thoughts. First, know your limitations. Don't be afraid to find people who can shore up your own weaknesses. For us, that was finding someone to help guide us through the SBIR/STTR grant application process. Second, don't get scared away from the competitiveness of the program. This is a great program and a process that benefits the overall development of your product.


Tom Swegle can be reached at 515.577.6758 or


Preparing for the Fifth Annual Clean Energy Challenge


The Iowa Energy Center and the Iowa Innovation Corporation are partnering with Clean Energy Trust to promote the Fifth Annual  Clean Energy Challenge, a nationally acclaimed accelerator program and pitch competition that has jump started more than 60 startups in the Midwest. The partnership is designed to establish a conduit for Iowa-based cleantech startups to gain greater access to investment funding and industry-leading mentoring.


"We want to help students at Iowa universities and colleges turn great ideas into commercial reality at the Iowa Energy Center," said Dr. Mark Petri, Director of the Iowa Energy Center. "The Clean Energy Challenge is the best opportunity in the Midwest for clean energy startups to receive early stage funding, which is why we are excited to be partnering with Clean Energy Trust."


To kick-off the partnership, the Iowa Energy Center and the Iowa Innovation Corporation hosted a panel discussion and webinar at Iowa State University's campus on November 20. More than 20 people attended, while even more participated through a webinar. Patrick Whitty of Clean Energy Trust flew in from Chicago to announce the opportunity for students and startups to compete for $1 million in total investments on April 14, 2015 at the Clean Energy Challenge.


At least two Iowa companies - Artichar and Gross-Wen Technologies - are already in the process of making their applications.


"We are excited about the Clean Energy Challenge, it could be a great opportunity for ARTi to gain commercialization assistance, mentorship and meet other talented groups in the Midwest who are working towards a sustainable future," said Bernardo Del Campo of Artichar.


Martin Gross of Gross-Wen Technologies added, "The Clean Energy Challenge Event is a great opportunity to take a major step towards commercialization for startup companies like GWT."

Companies that participated in the Clean Energy Challenge program have received a total of $2.2 million in startup funding, raised $46 million in additional funding, and created over 300 jobs, since the Clean Energy Challenge began in 2011.


Applications for competitors are open now and will be accepted through January 13, 2015. Startups and students can apply at the Clean Energy Challenge website:


2014 Battelle Report Released


Governor Terry Branstad joined representatives from the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress (IPEP) -- the state's CEO-level, industry-led advisory board co-chaired by the Governor and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds - to release the findings of the 2014 Battelle Report: Iowa's Re-envisioned Economic Development Roadmap. The Battelle Technology Partnership Practice was commissioned by IPEP and the Iowa Business Council to conduct this comprehensive analysis.


"Thanks to the IPEP board and the Iowa Business Council, we now have a roadmap for the future," said Governor Branstad. "These business leaders - in addition to their day jobs of running Iowa's top businesses - have given of their time and resources to make sure Iowa has a focused plan to achieve success. We are grateful for their leadership."


Battelle is the world's largest nonprofit independent research and development organization. The Technology Partnership Practice (TPP) assists local, state, and regional organizations, universities, nonprofit technology organizations, and others in designing, implementing, and assessing technology-based economic development programs. Over the past 18 months, researchers from Battelle have been working with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and regional economic development organizations around the state, including the Iowa Innovation Corporation, to conduct the study. The comprehensive report reviews Iowa's industry drivers and potential growth opportunities. It also looks at how the state has fared in advancing innovation, job attraction and retention since the last roadmap was developed in 2004-2005.


The Battelle Report takes a look at Iowa's current position, as compared to the nation and benchmarked states. Due in part to the focused work over the past several years, Iowa is faring well. Some identified successes include:

  • Restructuring of the IEDA and streamlining of funding programs
  • Creating better private/public partnerships
  • Better collaboration of stakeholders
  • Improved marketing of Iowa and its assets

Iowa has made substantial economic progress over the last decade, resulting in positive trends in Iowa's top-line measures of success:

  • Productivity is high -- As of 2013, Iowa's economic output, in real, inflation-adjusted terms, was 5.9% higher than the pre-recession levels of 2007, outpacing the national growth of 4.7% during the same period.
  • Job growth and workforce are strong -- Iowa outperformed the nation in the growth of both middle and high-skilled jobs. At the same time, the number of low-skill jobs has actually declined as both employers and employees transition to a more skilled workforce.
  • Wages are rising -- Iowa substantially outpaced national gains in private sector average wages.  This is consistent with the rising workforce skill levels in Iowa and an increase in the number of higher quality jobs.
  • Per capita income is growing -- While record farm incomes have driven a substantial increase in per capita income during the last decade, from 2007 to 2013, Iowa's nonfarm personal income also grew 20%, eclipsing national growth of 14% over the same period.


The Battelle Report makes recommendations for strategic priorities that Iowa must adopt to competitively position the state in a global economy. Recommendations include:

  • Build on the competitiveness and growth of Iowa's industry clusters through innovation, retention and attraction.
  • Generate and attract skilled workforce in demand by Iowa's businesses.
  • Accelerate the development of Iowa's emerging entrepreneurial eco-system.
  • Advance Iowa's physical infrastructure and regional development capacities to realize Iowa's economic potential.

"This report is such a valuable resource for the IEDA, economic developers and policymakers around our state," commented Debi Durham, director of the IEDA. "It truly is a data-driven look at where we are at, while at the same time, it gives a clear picture of what we could achieve with the right kind of resources focused on targeted priorities."


The Iowa Innovation Corporation is ready to work with our statewide partners to begin prioritizing and taking action on these recommendations. We expect there will suggestions and direction about how we can implement recommendations that will enhance the innovation ecosystem. 


To download the executive summary, visit