Launchpad Program Awarded $50,000 for Supporting Women Innovators in STEM

U.S. Small Business Administration funding will help the Biomimicry Institute continue supporting women innovators in creating nature-inspired design.

The Biomimicry Institute is proud to announce that its Launchpad program was selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration to receive a $50,000 award in the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC). The award recognizes the Launchpad’s past and future work supporting women innovators in STEM and will be used in furthering the program’s mission of training early-stage, nature-inspired innovators in areas such as entrepreneurial mindset, green business skills, and effective science communication practices.

The GAFC fund will help the Institute build formal relationships with university research groups, particularly focusing on institutions that graduate a high percentage of women, along with other underrepresented groups. The Launchpad will also work to provide access to individuals that are specifically interested in supporting women-led ventures.

“We are honored to have been selected as a GAFC award recipient, and to be included among other notable recipients in this cohort,” said Jared Yarnall-Schane, Entrepreneurship Director at the Biomimicry Institute. “We believe that in order to solve systemic environmental issues, we need to engage with and support all types of innovators. Just like a healthy habitat in nature thrives on a diversity of organisms, healthy societies thrive with diversity and inclusion. We are committed to a diverse representation in our programs, including our participants, selection committees, mentors, and experts.”

The Launchpad program is designed to help early-stage innovators learn about the basic concepts of entrepreneurship and sustainable business skills, and they are then connected to relevant next-step opportunities, such as traditional accelerator programs or government funding. Because these external programs have traditionally been male dominated, the Institute has taken a strong stance on the need to identify female-friendly programs that represent successful female founders. Over the past two years, 61% of Launchpad participants have identified as female, and more than 50% of the Launchpad program’s mentors identify as women.

Three early stage, women-led companies that represent the range of technology and industries of Biomimicry Launchpad participants include:

Werewool is a cutting edge biotech startup first inspired by colorful corals, that is creating biodegradable textile fibers with protein-based inherent properties such as color and stretch. “The Biomimicry Launchpad gave us further insight and understanding about how to apply Biomimicry practices to our business. It also connected us with industry professionals that have furthered our development.” — Valentina Gomez, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Werewool

InstaBuff was started by landscape architects to solve persistent nutrient runoff problems with easily deployed and nature-inspired riparian buffers. “The Biomimicry Launchpad, through teaching, connecting to resources, and coaching, taught our team that we could do something inspiring that we’ve never done before — develop an idea and make a difference. The Biomimicry Institute team also helped me think about how to create a product, a business, and a life that can exist in balance and harmony with ecological needs as well as support other human efforts.” — Elena Juodisius, InstaBuff team member

Undula Tech has developed an undulating wind or ocean current power generator, modeled after the cuttlefish’s undulating swimming motion. “The Biomimicry Institute has had a huge impact on both myself and Undula Tech. Personally, I would not be where I am today if I had not met the teachers, mentors, and friends I now number among the staff. Undula Tech, too, would not be where it is today without the Institute’s excellent coaches, lessons and support. The now-patented idea could revolutionize the world of small-scale decentralized wind and hydropower generation.” — Louisa Ulrich-Verderber, Founder of Undula Tech

The Launchpad program supports early-stage innovators. It’s an incubator for nature-inspired innovation but also, very importantly, a training for a sustainability mindset. “The Biomimicry Launchpad works with individuals prior to business incorporation. Sometimes participants decide to not continue developing their startup at this point in time,” added Yarnall-Schane. “We celebrate when this happens, because we know our participants have the skills and experience necessary to bring future sustainability solutions to life.”

The winners of the GAFC are accelerators and incubators who proposed targeted assistance to STEM/R&D entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, rural, and veteran entrepreneurs. The GAFC prize winners support a broad range of industries including clean energy, supply chain resilience, and infrastructure.

“I am proud to announce the winners of the 2021 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition and SBIR Catalyst prize competition. This year’s cohort of winners emphasizes our commitment to equity. Our awardees have innovative plans to support underserved entrepreneurs, including women, people of color, and individuals from underrepresented geographic areas,” said SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman in a press announcement. “The Growth Accelerator prize funds will ensure a wide range of startups and innovators working on cutting edge STEM/R&D ideas have access to technical support and capital.”

To learn more about the Biomimicry Institute’s Launchpad program, visit biomimicry.org/launchpad.

The Biomimicry Institute empowers people to create nature-inspired solutions for a healthy planet. www.biomimicry.org