$2.7M to grow UH entrepreneurship, workforce development programs

University of Hawaiʻi
Vassilis L. Syrmos, (808) 956-5006
Vice President for Research and Innovation, Office of the VP for Research and Innovation
Eric R. Matsunaga, (808) 956-5588
Director, Research and Administrative Operations, Office of the VP for Research and Innovation
Posted: May 26, 2021

The University of Hawaiʻi will expand its innovation, entrepreneurship and workforce development ecosystem with the support of a $2.7-million CARES Act Recovery Assistance grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). This will be matched with $813,068 of local funding.

“In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and world events beyond our control, never has it been more important for an island-state like Hawaiʻi to develop new industries to supplement its primary, but often fragile tourism-based economy,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos. “We are grateful to the EDA for their generous grant to the University of Hawaiʻi and for recognizing the importance of our efforts to help diversify the local economy through our growing slate of innovation, entrepreneurship and workforce development programs.”

Innovation Impact Challenge

EDA funds will help to strengthen, expand and scale UH’s Innovation Impact Challenge (IIC) initiative, which seeks to utilize and promote Hawaiʻi-based talent, knowledge and innovation to create a more resilient and sustainable economy. Spearheaded by the UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization (OIC), the two-pronged initiative aims to develop both UH-based technologies and a corresponding high-tech workforce to support it.

Under the IIC Technology Development Program, OIC has been working with its industry, community and government partners to identify their unique challenges, and to engage UH researchers and students to develop new innovative solutions. These innovations may have potential commercial applications that can later be brought to market either through licensing/patenting of the technology or the formation of a startup company. Current IIC partners include Hawaiian Electric, Hawaiian Telcom, Diamond Bakery and the National Security Innovation Network.

The initiative’s second component, the IIC Workforce Development Program, will seek to establish programs at the UH Community Colleges to re-skill, up-skill and cross-skill the state’s current workforce in information technology and other in-demand areas, in addition to promoting small business creation.

“The CARES grant is a testament to the EDA’s belief in UH’s ability to deliver much-needed programs to help stimulate and develop a stronger and more resilient economy for the state of Hawaiʻi and its citizens,” said Steve Auerbach, OIC interim director.

This project is funded under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (PDF), which provided EDA with $1.5 billion for economic assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus. EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance, which is being administered under the authority of the bureau’s flexible Economic Adjustment Assistance (PDF) program, provides a wide range of financial assistance to eligible communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

About the UH Office of Innovation and Commercialization

OIC is responsible for the management of intellectual property and technology assets developed at all 10 campuses within the University of Hawai‘i System and the transfer and translation of new technology to broader public use. The Office of Technology Transfer and UH Ventures are housed within OIC. OIC also has oversight of the innovation and entrepreneurial programs across the UH System, including: Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship, iLab—the innovation playground at the center of the UH Mānoa campus and the Mānoa Innovation Center incubator.  

About UH Research

Research conducted by the University of Hawai‘i impacts the quality of life in the islands and around the world. As the state’s major research university, and because of Hawai‘i’s tremendous geographic diversity, UH plays a prominent role in the state’s economic growth and development through its diverse and world-renowned research programs in astronomy, Earth and ocean sciences, medicine and tropical agriculture. 

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration

The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.