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As part of the implementation of Alabama Governor Bentley’s Accelerate Alabama Program, the State of Alabama created the Alabama Innovation Fund (AIF) with a 2012 appropriation of $4.0M. The purpose of this fund is to maximize the use of the State’s economic development resources by leveraging annual research and development expenditures by public institutions of higher education to generate high technology resources which can be used to support economic development activities. The AIF supports and operates two distinct programs which is administered by the Alabama Department of Commerce.

The renewal program receives 60% ($2.4M) of the total AIF allocation for the purpose of renewing the high technology infrastructure of the most successful research universities in the State in order to enhance the ability of these research universities to further develop Alabama high technology economic resources. These funds are distributed through grants to each public university which submitted an application with the allocation based on the level of each public university’s total federally financed research and development expenditures for the last three years, with the goal being to provide additional support and economic growth opportunities to those institutions that demonstrated the greatest research success.

The research program receives 40% ($1.6M) of the total AIF allocation and the funds are distributed to universities and colleges according to a competitive review process that determines the most meritorious proposals. Each project was reviewed using the following criteria:

  • Strength of the partnership between university and private business
  • Potential creation of patentable or other intellectual property capable of successful commercialization
  • Probability to stimulate further research and development within the state
  • Possibility of future job creation
  • Expertise of the research team in fields
  • Research team experience with similar projects that led to successful commercialization and job creation
  • Technological, economic, human and intellectual property resources available to research team
  • Positive contribution to State’s economy

ALEPSCoR’s Executive Director Chris Lawson, working under the leadership of Alabama Assistant Secretary of Commerce Linda Swann, was instrumental in developing the AIF proposal review and award process for the Department of Commerce, and 95% ($3.7M) of the total AIF funding went to ALEPSCoR research institutions. ALEPSCoR Steering Committee members (AESC) and staff served on the AIF Proposal Review and Award Team: Christopher Lawson (Executive Director, ALEPSCoR-organized team, award process and review), Dr. Joseph Benson (UA), Ms. Lynn Chronister (USA), Dr. Charles Prince (UAB), Dr. Carl Pinkert (UA), Charlotte Nix (Program Administrator, ALEPSCoR). The 2012 awards were announced by Governor Bentley on October 3, 2012 at the Alabama Launchpad Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference in Birmingham, Alabama. Governor Bentley stated that “These grants will lead to new innovations for our communities and more jobs for Alabamians. By awarding these grants, we are investing in new opportunities that will benefit our communities for years to come.”

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