West Virginia University leadership, partnered with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, helped plant the seeds of a statewide innovation jobs initiative that recently attracted a $250,000 grant.

U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, all D-W.Va., announced that TechConnect WV would receive a $250,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration to continue its efforts to diversify the Mountain State economy and create high-wage jobs.

The program started as an idea generated and developed jointly by the WVU Research Office and the Benedum Foundation, which provided initial funding, said Russ Lorince, director of economic development at WVU.

“The new grant, combined with support from Benedum and other sources, will allow the non-profit to seriously pursue innovation-based economic development, job creation, capital investment and economic diversity,” Lorince explained. “WVU retains a primary leadership role in TechConnect’s direction which is consistent with the innovation-based initiatives promoted by President Clements and the University’s new strategic plan.”

Just over a year ago, WVU received the prestigious Innovator Award from the Southern Growth Policies Board for its leadership role in creating TechConnect.

“The idea of TechConnect is to strengthen the state’s economy by increasing startup companies in the state; attracting new technology firms; creating innovation economy jobs; and forming new capital investment,” said Lorince, who is also chair of the TechConnect initiative. “All that means new jobs and enhanced tax revenues for West Virginia.”

TechConnectWV is a non-profit coalition with broad representation from private industry, the public sector and higher education. TechConnectWV works to enhance awareness, spur collaboration and raise the discussion of issues surrounding technology-based economic development. Its goals are to diversify the state’s economy, promote economic prosperity and create high-paying jobs. For more information, visit www.techconnectwv.com.

Lorince said the success of TechConnect provides a connection for another WVU economic development initiative known as Linking Innovation Industry and Commercialization—or LIINC—which also received support from the Benedum Foundation.

The goal of LIINC is to optimize research through innovative programs that better tie researchers to the marketplace and create revenue streams from licensing of technologies.

“TechConnect and LIINC are significant WVU efforts aimed at enhancing the University’s work to improve the economy of our state,” Lorince said. “The support of the Benedum Foundation and the EDA for those efforts represents significant recognition for that work.”

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