Recap: Arkansas’ 1st Entrepreneurial & Innovation Ecosystem Summit Opens Doors

August 23rd, 2017 by Rebecca Todd

The first Arkansas Entrepreneurial & Innovation Ecosystem Summit was held Tuesday, Aug. 22, in North Little Rock at the Arkansas Municipal League. Hosted by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, the event attracted 42  service providers, technology company leaders, and university members with key roles in supporting innovative Arkansas entrepreneurs.

The purpose of the summit was to ensure awareness of available statewide services for innovation and technology-based ventures and discuss collaborative options for addressing gaps in the state’s innovation ecosystem.

AEDC's Tom Chilton speaks at summit

What Happened?

Following a welcome by AEDC Executive Director Mike Preston, Tom Chilton of the AEDC Division of Science and Technology discussed new incentives to spur innovation and create high-skill, high-wage jobs for Arkansas.

He detailed two new incentive programs passed this year by the Legislature, the Arkansas Business and Technology Accelerator Grant Program and the Arkansas Small Business Innovation Research Matching Grant Program.

Jeff Moore, AEDC executive vice president for marketing and communications, talked about telling a compelling, cohesive story about the state’s environment for tech entrepreneurs and companies.

Hunter Hauk and Steve Stanley reviewed existing AEDC incentives and commercialization programs such as the Technology Transfer Assistance Grant, Technology Development Program, Seed Capital Investment Program and the Research and Development Tax Credit and Incentives program.

AEDC encourages interested applicants to contact them directly for more information about the programs and incentives.

Brad Henry of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority discussed ADFA venture capital programs and noted that they have contributed to a substantial portion of innovative Arkansas company funding.

The final presentation was about small business startup and expansion assistance available through the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center. The ASBTDC is unique among Arkansas economic development programs in that services are not restricted by county, industry type, or stage of development.

ASBTDC clients who submit Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer proposals demonstrate award win rates at the upper end of the federal agencies’ average (10-25%). To date, Arkansas companies have won 33 SBIR/STTR awards.

What’s Next?

Following the presentations, the open discussion touched on several topics, such as how to attract and keep talent in the state and what a “one-stop shop” online dashboard for Arkansas entrepreneurs might entail.

Future summits are planned. Based on response from attendees, the AEDC will likely hold these events twice a year.