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2 Maryland accelerators receive federal grant money

Two Maryland organizations received federal grants for their programs to increase growth and economic development by supporting entrepreneurship.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center received the grants as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s i6 Challenge program. The administration is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Innovation and entrepreneurship are an indispensable part of the American economic success story, and the Trump Administration is pursuing an agenda that will ensure the U.S. remains a leader in both areas,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “These projects will spark innovation across the country and will build on the beneficial environment the Trump Administration is creating for American businesses.”

The Johns Hopkins and Eastern Shore projects were two of 26 grantees announced Tuesday. There were more than 140 applicants for the i6 grants.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures is using the $633,000 grant to launch the Chesapeake Regional Digital Health Exchange, an effort to accelerate digital health entrepreneurship in Maryland.

“We are really trying to create a regional play,” said Liz Burger, senior director for strategic initiatives at Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, who wrote the grant proposal. “The hope is that companies will be created and will grow and hire from the Baltimore development pipeline.”

Much of what Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures does is life science focused. It is one of Maryland’s more lucrative fields for entrepreneurship, but it can also take years for those companies to develop into meaningful sources of jobs.

With the digital health exchange, Burger hopes there is an opportunity to turn a rapidly growing field in health care into an opportunity to create jobs immediately for people who may not be corporate-level executives or highly skilled in the life sciences.

“This is a nice extension of (the BLocal) effort on Hopkins part, and it was clearly important to the EDA, not wanting projects that are regional development only in the C-suite and highly-technical jobs,” Burger said. “That’s an extra level of cool that we don’t always get to do.”

The exchange will initially focus on three categories within the digital health space: health care delivery, precision medicine and cybersecurity.

Digital health care delivery is most commonly seen through telemedicine efforts that are gaining a wider foothold across the country as a way to more effectively deliver care, especially to people who may have a difficult time getting to the doctor.

Precision medicine involves using data to tailor more specific care for patients.

Cybersecurity is becoming an important part of the equation as more health care becomes digital because the data developed also needs to be secured.

Through it all there are regulatory and privacy challenges that need to be addressed by any company hoping to make a dent in the field.

The Hopkins proposal for the grant mostly includes events, seminars, speaker series, a marketing effort and some workforce development efforts. It will also include an accelerator for digital health companies.

The other Maryland program to receive federal funding is the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center.

The center is focused on developing scalable businesses that can bring jobs to the Eastern Shore, particularly in its traditional industries of agriculture and seafood. It could support nine startups through the $468,500 grant.

The center’s F³ (Farm-Fish-Food) Tech Accelerator focuses on innovation and technology in agriculture, aquaculture, and the environment.

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