By Maria Saporta
Clark Atlanta University has been awarded $432,335 from the U.S. Department of Commerce as part of a $15 million investment by the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies Program.
CAU is among only 35 organizations funded out of more than 215 applicants from 19 states, and the program’s first investment in a Southern HBCU (Historically Black College and University).
Clark Atlanta received the funds to partner in launching a groundbreaking university-community initiative, the Clark Russell Entrepreneurship and Technology Ecosystem (CREATE).
Over the next three years, CREATE will develop and launch an innovative platform that will economically transform southwest Atlanta into a vibrant, inclusive and entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem supporting approximately 50 new entrepreneurs in creating 400 jobs in local food system technology enterprises.
Partners in this initiative include the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and two community partners, the Herman J. Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) and the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture.
This historic effort is part of Clark Atlanta President Ronald Johnson’s vision for innovation and entrepreneurship, developing capacity-building activities in areas surrounding CAU and the Atlanta University Center.
CREATE connects the research and education capacity of CAU, the 3D printing lab at CAU’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development, the entrepreneurship and lab-to-market training expertise of RCIE, and the world-class urban farming innovations developed at Truly Living Well in an innovative proof-of-concept and commercialization pipeline that will transform local food systems in the region and beyond.
“It is troublesome that the community surrounding a world-renown bastion of scholarship and enlightenment has, in so many ways, been forgotten and is too often considered a ‘food desert’ and a ‘crime zone’,” Johnson said in a statement. “CREATE will directly address those issues by deploying CAU’s intellectual, research and entrepreneurial assets in partnership with two outstanding organizations, RCIE and TLW, that have consistently demonstrated their commitment and expertise in enhancing peoples’ quality of life.
“This initiative will address the underlying issues of employment, food security and urban development, and it also represents our willingness to lock arms with the very neighborhoods that have lifted up our university community for over 150 years,” Johnson continued.
CREATE will support entrepreneurs in using STEM innovations to build healthy local food systems, create jobs for the innovation economy, and develop entrepreneurial opportunities in southwest Atlanta.
UNCF is contributing $364,687 to the project and RCIE and Truly Living Well are contributing $114,045. The total project costs for this program are $911,067.