$1.5 Million EDA Grant to Delaware Innovation Space to Launch Hard Science Startup Accelerator

WILMINGTON, Del. Today, Delaware Governor John Carney, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.) announced a $1.5 million grant award from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Delaware Innovation Space to create a Hard Science Startup Accelerator. The grant was awarded through the national Build to Scale (B2S) competition run by the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) at EDA.

Delaware Innovation Space is a nonprofit incubator and accelerator at the Experimental Station where scientists, business leaders, community members, investors, and service providers in the industrial biotech, advanced materials, chemical ingredients, renewable energy, nutrition and healthcare fields can build business concepts together and accelerate the path to commercialization. It is the result of a public-private partnership between the State of Delaware, DuPont and the University of Delaware. This grant award will provide mentorship and training to entrepreneurs to help them develop and grow their business.

Delaware Innovation Space was awarded the top amount of $1.5 million in the competition placing it in the top 10 percent of more than 600 applications that were submitted from across the United States.

“We want innovators and entrepreneurs to start in Delaware, stay in Delaware, and grow in Delaware,” said Governor John Carney. “The accelerator program funded by this grant will assist emerging science-based startups to grow and thrive right here in Delaware. The world has changed. We have to continue being nimble and supporting our entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’ve already seen success out of the Delaware Innovation Space from companies like Prelude Therapeutics, and I look forward to seeing the Delaware companies that this program will launch and grow.”

“The lack of physical lab space with expert business mentorship and training is a road block to the ultimate success of emerging entrepreneurs in the hard sciences,” said Bill Provine, Delaware Innovation Space President & CEO. The Hard Science Startup Accelerator will provide science entrepreneurs with access to structured programs and a customized learning experience that will improve their business concepts and plans, making them more attractive to investors. This combined with the physical assets of the Delaware Innovation Space which includes a more than 130,000-square-foot physical and virtual collaboration ecosystem will assist and equip scalable startups with the tools and expert insights that they need to transform the markets in which they operate.”  

“The Delaware Innovation Space was born out of Delaware’s long history of scientific innovation. As we push through this pandemic, the Innovation Space will continue to be an important part of research and discovery – and economy recovery,” said Senator Carper, ranking member on the Environment and Public Works committee in the U.S. Senate, which has jurisdiction over EDA. “The Delaware Innovation Space will leverage this federal investment and use the resources of the University of Delaware and DuPont to mentor entrepreneurs through its Hard Science Startup Accelerator. We must continue to find ways to grow our economy for the long-term, and this grant will help foster that innovation.”

 “The Hard Science Startup Accelerator program aims to help startup companies and science entrepreneurs be competitive in today’s global economy,” said Senator Coons. “The Delaware Innovation Space has helped companies like Yushan Yan’s W7 Energy to spin out of the University of Delaware their fuel cell technology, and this $1.5-million grant will continue advancing innovation and economic development with other startups in the First State. This federal funding, combined with investments from other partners, helps make sure that Delaware – the birthplace of Nylon, Kevlar, Teflon, and Oliver Evans’ Automated Flour Mill – can provide capital-intensive wet lab space and world-class mentorship well into the future to many more promising technologies.”

“In the midst of our national period of economic hardship, we must continue to help our emerging entrepreneurs innovate and succeed,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “The Delaware Innovation Space represents the best kind of partnership that we must continue to utilize and leverage. I’m excited to see how this federal investment will help catalyze some truly exciting results.”

The Hard Science Startup Accelerator will be offered at no-charge to startup companies and the application window for the first cohort class along with other supporting programs will open in late 2020; with the first cohort class beginning work in 2021.



Ten Delaware companies ready to grow after winning EDGE Grants

WILMINGTON, Del. – A bio-based materials company, a maker of wearable medical sensors, and a bakery-café were among the 10 Delaware small businesses recognized Thursday as awardees of the second round of EDGE Grants from the state Division of Small Business.

Governor John Carney, Secretary of State Jeff Bullock, and Division of Small Business Director Damian DeStefano announced the companies at an event Thursday at the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington.

“It is incredible to see what the innovative entrepreneurs in this state are accomplishing,” said Governor Carney. “Their companies span a wide range of industries, but the one thing the owners share is the drive and determination necessary to start then grow their businesses. I am glad the State is able to support their work through initiatives like the EDGE Grant program.”

EDGE Grants provide a 3-to-1 match for each dollar an eligible business spends on qualified expenses that improve the company’s long-term chances of success, from market analysis to website design to acquiring essential equipment.

The State awarded grants this round to 10 companies, listed below. Five STEM Class companies are receiving a total of $495,000, and five Entrepreneur Class businesses are receiving a total of $216,000.

“EDGE Grants are helping to level the playing field for promising Delaware small companies as they compete with more established, larger businesses,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. “And this program is just one of the many ways the Division of Small Business, since it was created under the Department of State three years ago, has made a strong, positive impact on the state’s economy by assisting hardworking business owners.”

EDGE launched in May, and the first grant round took place over the summer. In the second round, which opened in September, almost 100 businesses applied for funding.

Sixteen finalists – eight STEM Class and eight Entrepreneur Class – gave public presentations before a panel of expert judges on December 18 and 19 at Delaware Tech in Dover, after which five winners in each category were chosen.

“Several companies that applied in the first round but were not successful in winning a grant took advantage of the opportunity to work with the Division’s business resource managers to strengthen their applications for this time around,” said Division Director Damian DeStefano. “That is what this program is about. The grant funding is incredibly important to those who win, but EDGE also provides a way for all applicants learn how to improve their businesses.”

The Division of Small Business is currently accepting applications for the Spring 2020 round of EDGE Grants. Visit www.delbiz.com for eligibility requirements and to download the application. The deadline to apply is February 28, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.


EDGE Round Two Recipients


STEM class

2M LLC (Wilmington)
This company makes an extremely fast-charging and safe battery, which can enable a less than 10-minute charge for E-mobility applications, such as enabling an electric vehicle to go 200 miles on a 10-minute charge. 2M will use the grant to scale up production to meet customer demand.

4th Phase Water Technologies (Wilmington)
This company is focused on commercializing binder-free carbon nanotube sheets made using its proprietary processes. The sheets are superior filtration/separation membranes and electromagnetic interference shielding material for a host of industries including bioprocessing, defense, consumer electronics and automotive. The company will use its grant to acquire additional lab equipment and for marketing.

Lignolix (Wilmington)
This company is developing sustainable products from biomass, such as that which is produced in beer manufacturing. It will use the grant to scale up its chemical process, increase production capacity and attract larger commercial customers.

MCET Technologies (Wilmington)
This company developed a way of integrating sensors into textiles that can be used to monitor a patient during physical rehabilitation. It will use the grant to scale up manufacturing to increase production and expand applications.

Veramorph Materials (Wilmington)
This company developed a hydrogel-based system that allows the body to absorb pharmaceuticals more efficiently. It will use its grant for critical equipment for R&D services for pharmaceutical companies and to conduct toxicology studies.


Entrepreneur class

Best Music Coach (Dover)
This company offers online music lessons for voice and various instruments including guitar and piano. It will use its grant to upgrade its online platform and add online learning materials.

Dolce Bakery and Coffee Shop (Milford)
This bakery-café will use the grant to upgrade its equipment and market its new services and a second Milford location scheduled to open later this year.

Fur Baby Tracker (Wilmington)
This woman-owned company will use its grant to roll out the mobile app it developed that lets pet parents track the progress of their cat or dog’s treatment during a stay at a veterinary hospital.

Volunteer Brewing Company (Middletown)
This family-owned craft brewing company located in downtown Middletown will use its grant to purchase new brewing and fermentation equipment to expand production.

WilmInvest (Wilmington)
This company purchases and renovates single-family homes in Wilmington which it leases to nonprofits and governmental entities to house families in need of housing and supportive services. It will use the grant to purchase and renovate additional homes.


Media Contact:
Michael Chesney
Director of Communications
Division of Small Business
(302) 943-9508 (cell)

Delaware Innovation Space unveils new $6M growth space for startups

The Delaware Innovation Space (DISI), Wilmington DE, formally opened a new $6M lab space for early stage science companies at an event with over 120 attendees last Friday, September 13th.  Federal, Academic, Business & Delaware State leaders in attendance spoke about the importance of startup companies for today’s economy along with the importance of supportive state and federal policies that provide resources needed to lift startups from formation & proof of concept to becoming growth businesses.   

DISI CEO & President, Bill Provine kicked off the event by expressing excitement in the completion of enhancements to DISI. “We have transformed a building originally built for one company, the DuPont Merck joint venture, and have created what you see here today – a highly interactive, collaborative, and supportive environment for many startup companies,”  said Provine.  According to Provine, the renovation enhances the ability of DISI to grow and scale these companies, potentially into the next large scale employers like a DuPont, Agilent, Gore, or Incyte.  In particular, he spoke to building “companies that will last for generations and ultimately employ thousands of employees and will be future cornerstones of our community.” 

Assistant Secretary of US Dept of Commerce and head of Economic Development Administration (EDA), Dr. John Fleming spoke about the importance of driving growth of local economies and job creation. “What has lifted mankind the most over time has been innovation and increased productivity, and America does that best,” Fleming said enthusiastically, “and this is the best of America.” The EDA provided $3M in funding to create the new private lab pods & collaboration spaces to give early-stage science companies with the tools and capabilities to startup and scale-up into successful businesses. 

U.S. Senator, Tom Carper spoke to the importance of adaptable startups in today’s world in saying “the world has changed, and we have to be able to be nimble and to change as well. And, this building and the folks that are in here and starting businesses and growing here are the face of change.”  Delaware Governor, John Carney echoed Carper’s comments by proclaiming that “new discoveries, new jobs, and new businesses are more likely to spin out of a facility like this than to be driven by some of our bigger corporate citizens in our state.”  According to Provine, since launching 2 years ago, DISI programs have actively supported over 30 companies, which enabled the growth or retention of over 240 jobs with an average salary of over $100,000 per year, and client startup companies have raised over $120 million dollars in private investment to date. 

 University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis spoke to the importance of entrepreneurship to UD, specifically that it is one of the five priorities of the university. “We take the position very seriously that we have to help transform our economy towards a knowledge based economy and what we’re doing is clearly going in this direction,” said Assanis.  He quickly highlighted two recent success startup success stories, starting with W7 Energy.  W7 is a company focusing on developing advanced fuel cell materials to create price parity with traditional gasoline engines, the company was just awarded over $4 million via Department of Energy’s ARPA-E grant program.  He also spoke about MCET Technologies, a new spin-out from UD which just won a DuPont sponsored competition for free space at DISI for a year.  Assanis spoke that DISI is “going to help our entrepreneurs become more creative, become more successful, and we’re happy to have our students come to the incubator and work with the companies and create a wonderful eco system within our state.” 

 Alexa Dembek, DuPont’s Chief Technology and Sustainability spoke to a critical component of DuPont’s innovation strategy: collaborating with startups. “The reason that’s important today is because we know to stay relevant, we have to rely on partnerships and collaborations in a very different way than we were comfortable with before in the past,” said Dembek.  She continued by mentioning several key decisions she made when accepting the role, specifically in ending a culture of “not invented here”  Dembek explained further, “it’s super important because with that mindset, that means that entrepreneurism, that means collaboration with the state, that means collaboration with the University of Delaware is essential for all of us to win and especially to win in our hometown of Delaware.” 

 During the ceremony, Provine & Assanis highlighted DISI’s FastPass competition, where startups can be awarded up to 1 year of free space at DISI combined with access to DISI’s business building programs & with a $5000 credit for supplies. Currently, DISI is seeking companies that are affiliated with the University of Delaware, either by leveraging technologies developed at UD or consisting of leadership teams with current facility, staff, students or alumni.  Assanis boasted “Don’t underestimate the mighty 150 square feet of incubator space that we’re providing, believe me, here people turn their dreams into reality.” 

Ten small businesses announced as EDGE Grant awardees

WILMINGTON, DE – Ten Delaware small businesses were recognized Wednesday as the awardees of the first-ever EDGE Grants from the state Division of Small Business.

Gov. John Carney and Division Director Damian DeStefano announced the companies at an event at the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington. The grant recipients, located across the state, represent a variety of industries, including agribusiness, medical devices, food services and apparel. They include woman-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses.

“Delaware is fortunate to have a vibrant small business community comprised of 25,000 companies that employ more than half of all Delaware workers,” Gov. Carney said. “Through these grants the State of Delaware is helping to support small business owners who take risks to realize their dreams of building companies from the ground up.”

EDGE Grants provide a 3-to1 match for each dollar an eligible business invests on qualified expenses that improve the company’s long-term chances of success.

The state is awarding a total of 10 grants. Five in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) class totaling $500,000 and five in the Entrepreneur class tallying $248,000. The businesses are putting up almost $375,000 in matching funds.

“These grants will assist these creative, driven entrepreneurs get the capital support they need to reach their full potential,” said Secretary of State Jeff Bullock. “They will help the companies grow and level the playing field as they compete against larger, more established businesses.”

The innovative program launched in May and had more than 140 companies apply. Eight finalists were selected in the STEM class and eight in the Entrepreneur class. Five winners in each category were chosen after public presentations before a panel of judges on Aug. 13 and 14 at Del Tech in Dover.

“It was challenging to narrow a field filled with so many great applicants,” said DeStefano. “Over two days our team of judges listened carefully to the presentations, asked thoughtful questions and offered valuable insights and comments.”

The Division of Small Business is currently accepting applications for the second round of EDGE Grants. The deadline to apply is Oct. 11, 2019 at 11:59 p.m.

The recipients are:

STEM class

Avkin (New Castle)

This woman-owned business develops medical simulation equipment to train healthcare professionals. It will use the grant accelerate its efforts to market its products to hospital systems across the U.S.

EZY Venture (Harrington)

This woman-owned business processes industrial hemp and extracts CBD oil. It will use its grant to purchase the equipment it needs to extract and process the oil at scale, helping it to meet the growing demand for this product.

Napigen (Wilmington)

The company is developing a hybrid, non-GMO variety of wheat which may help ease the world’s shortage of the grain. It will use the grant for achieving two milestones critical for launching seed production.

Neurothera (Newark)

The company uses light (photobiomodulation) to treat diseases and injuries affecting the brain. It will use the grant to complete a preliminary study to investigate the technology as a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease.

W7 Energy (Wilmington)

This spin-out company from the University of Delaware is using a new class of hydroxide exchange membranes to power zero-emission fuel cell electric vehicles. It will use the grant to rent larger laboratory space and market to potential new customers.

Entrepreneur Class

BBD MidAtlantic (Greenville)

This woman-owned business operates a successful blow out-bar in Greenville called Blo Blow Dry Bar. It will use the grant to move to a larger space which will enable it to expand its staff and serve more customers.

entreDonovan Wholesale (Wilmington)

This women-owned company uses 3D technology and digital pattern making to produce custom-made women’s apparel for the workplace. It will use the grant to pursue its national growth strategy.

Grey Fox Capital (Wilmington)

This veteran-owned firm manages a fund which raises money to invest in real estate projects in Opportunity Zones in Delaware. It will use the grant for market analysis, marketing and legal fees.

Impact Graphix and Signs (Seaford)

This woman-owned business installs commercial signs and awnings in southern Delaware and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It will use the grant to purchase a second bucket truck to better meet demand for the company’s services.

Tomeka’s Homestyle Eatery (Dover)

This minority- and woman-owned business plans to open a home-style, soul food restaurant in downtown Dover. The owner already sells her food at the city’s weekly farmers market. She will use the grant to help build a commercial kitchen in the downtown building she plans to use for her restaurant.


 Media Contact:
Michael Chesney
Director of Communications
(302) 577-8472 (office)
(302) 943-9508 (mobile)

Governor Carney Announces New Director of Office of Innovation & Improvement

James Simmons III, Brandywine School District’s executive director of secondary education, is a district leader, former principal and teacher

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Wednesday announced that James Simmons III, who has extensive district and school leadership experience in the Brandywine School District, will take over as Director of the Delaware Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Simmons starts June 3.

The Wilmington-based office, created in 2017, supports students and educators in Delaware’s neediest schools with a focus on schools in the City of Wilmington.

“We created the Office of Innovation and Improvement to make sure we are on the ground supporting schools with high percentages of low-income and English learner students, and providing additional resources for educators and students in those schools,” said Governor Carney. “We need to make sure that we’re helping all Delaware students get a world-class education, and I’m confident that Jim has the experience and leadership necessary to make a real difference.”

Governor Carney’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal also includes a three-year, $60 million Opportunity Funding initiative to target resources toward disadvantaged Delaware students.

Learn more about Governor Carney’s Opportunity Funding initiative.

“Jim has an impressive career of leadership in one of the state’s top-performing districts. He has the valuable experience and has built both the trust and relationships needed to lead our Office of Innovation and Improvement,” said Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “I am delighted that he will be joining our team at the Delaware Department of Education.”

“Our responsibility is to make sure that all Delaware children have access to a high-quality education – including students who may be struggling,” said Simmons. “I look forward to collaborating with educators, building leaders and staff to support students and educators in Wilmington and across the state.”

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Jim,” said Dr. Mark Holodick, Superintendent of the Brandywine School District. “Like his predecessor, Dorrell Green, he will be able to use his skills and knowledge to positively impact even more students – not just in Brandywine School District, but in our neighboring districts and schools as well. While it is hard to lose a dedicated employee with so much history and institutional knowledge, we know that Jim will continue to do great things for students and families in Wilmington. Indeed, he will be an asset to the Department of Education and the Governor’s Office.”

“Jim Simmons is a student-centered, community-minded leader,” said Dorrell Green, Superintendent of the Red Clay Consolidated School District. “He possesses the skill set and collaborative spirit that will help the Department advance the work of the Office of Innovation and Improvement.”

Simmons takes over the role from Dorrell Green, who left the position to become Superintendent of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Simmons currently serves as executive director of secondary education in the Brandywine School District. He graduated from Brandywine’s Mt. Pleasant High School before attending West Point Military Academy Prep School. Simmons, who received two appointments to the United States Military Academy at West Point, attended the University of Delaware on a full football scholarship, and earned his undergraduate degree in earth science education. He later earned a Masters of Education in curriculum and instruction from Delaware State University.

Simmons has spent his entire career in Delaware schools, first working as a teacher and football coach at St. Mark’s, Milford, Delcastle and Mt. Pleasant high schools. He moved into his first full-time administrative role in 2003, when he became assistant to the principal at PS duPont Intermediate School in Wilmington. He also served as assistant to the principal at Concord and Mt. Pleasant high schools before becoming Mt. Pleasant’s principal in 2008.

In 2013, Simmons took a district leadership role, serving as Brandywine’s climate and culture leader. He later led Brandywine High School’s leadership for a year before moving to his current position in the district office in June 2015. He also serves as president of the Delaware Principal Academy.