Southeast’s IRIE Wins Second Straight Innovation Award


NADO Innovation AwardThe Southeast Missouri State University Institute for Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IRIE) was honored with a 2016 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation for the InnovateU Training Program and Learning Management System (LMS).

The purpose of InnovateU is to provide affordable turnkey training solutions for organizations that support entrepreneurship, such as chambers of commerce, business development centers, local/regional economic development councils and non-profits. The courses are designed to empower those with entrepreneurial dreams to move forward confidently knowing they have the knowledge, tools, and networks needed to be successful in business.

“One goal of the IRIE is to advance and increase entrepreneurship throughout rural Missouri using best practices,” said Crystal Jones, director of the Institute for Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “We are making significant strides toward that goal by offering InnovateU courses locally and through our nationwide affiliate network.”

One such course released earlier this year is the LaunchU six-week program. The hands-on course coaches aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs through the business planning process to determine business feasibility, including the actual development of a professional, Small Business Administration-approved business plan, pitch and financial forecast. In the first six months of offering LaunchU locally, the IRIE has already assisted 26 entrepreneurs in the region with 76 percent being women or minority-owned business owners.

“Southeast’s entrepreneurship training program provides a great opportunity for us to increase small business startup activity by offering high-quality education to local entrepreneurs,” said Jim Grebing, economic developer for the City of Kennett and InnovateU affiliate. “We had great participation when the program was offered in Kennett earlier this year and have seen the positive impact of entrepreneurs who finish the course with a solid business feasibility plan.”

InnovateU is the product of a multi-year partnership between the esteemed Kauffman Foundation and the Missouri Innovation Corporation (MIC), a non-profit organization of the University. In 1997, the Kauffman Foundation developed and launched the First Step FastTrac entrepreneurial education program and in 2011, the Foundation joined with the MIC to continue the development and distribution of that program. In 2016, the Foundation completely transferred ownership of the program to the MIC, which allowed for the updating and rebranding of the entire program to serve a whole new generation of entrepreneurs.

With that intellectual property transfer, the IRIE had the freedom to apply the expertise and capacity in innovation and entrepreneurship development derived from the University to elevate the previous program and course. That transformation involved the integration of several technologies including Talent LMS for e-learning and LivePlan, the world’s leading cloud-based business planning software.

“Now with a LMS in place, we can train affiliate organizations to offer courses in their communities cost-efficiently and conveniently through self-paced online certification courses,” said Gabrielle Penca, project coordinator at the IRIE. “This time and cost savings means we can devote more staff time towards facilitating trainings locally. Earlier this year, we were able to respond to the Noranda aluminum plant closure by offering LaunchU in Sikeston and Kennett, Missouri. These course offerings helped to combat the ripple effect of revenue leaving the local economy because it teaches participants the necessary knowledge, tools and networks to create their own jobs.”

This project also builds on the previous work done by the IRIE through their Regional Entrepreneurship Assessment & Strategy reports for which they also received a NADO Innovation Award. The IRIE will revisit the rural Missouri regions that received recommendations for developing a pipeline of educated and skilled entrepreneurs and provide them with technical assistance through InnovateU courses, specifically through the implementation of the six-week entrepreneurship training course, LaunchU.

NADO is a Washington, D.C.-based association that promotes programs and policies that strengthen local governments, communities and economies through regional cooperation, program delivery and comprehensive strategies.  The association’s Innovation Awards program recognizes regional development organizations and partnering organizations for improving the economic and community competitiveness of our nation’s regions and local communities. The 2016 class of award recipients consists of 96 projects spanning 28 states and will be honored during NADO’s 2016 Annual Training Conference, held Oct. 15-18 in San Antonio, Texas. The IRIE is the only award recipient from Missouri.

For more information about the award-winning project, contact Crystal Jones at the Institute for Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship at (573) 651-5956.