ICYMI: Arkansas Winners for the 2021 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) Announced!

Arkansas District Office

u s small business administration

2021 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC)

Two Winners from Arkansas Announced!

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A Message from SBA Arkansas District Director

Edward Haddock


Congratulations to Our Two Arkansas Winners!

I am pleased to announce that SBA has awarded two organizations with prize funding to help foster Arkansas’s innovation ecosystem. These awards will solidify Arkansas as a stronger player in the innovation economy and increase our competitiveness in winning SBIR and STTR opportunities-especially in underrepresented communities.

By winning the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC), Science Venture Studio and The Conductor demonstrate the tenacity of our state's innovation-focused entrepreneur support organizations. 

Congratulations to both Science Venture Studio and The Conductor!



2021 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition and SBIR Catalyst Competition Results


SBA Announces $5.4 Million in Prizes to Support Inclusive Entrepreneurship in the Innovation Ecosystem


The SBA recently concluded its 2021 competition for the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) and the SBIR Catalyst competition, a new component aimed at spurring investment in underrepresented communities within the innovation economy at scale, receiving a combined total of $5.4 million in awards to innovation-focused entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) with programs to speed the launch, growth, and scale of deep-tech small businesses across the country. 

The winners come from 48 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia and have been awarded based on their proposals for innovative ideas that inclusively support entrepreneurs researching and developing STEM-related innovations.  

In a first for the agency, the SBA this year held two prize tracks simultaneously: the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Catalyst Competitions. 

  • Track 1 – The Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC):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. Many accelerators and incubators also work to expand the participation of innovation-focused small businesses located in HUBZones. A total of 84 GAFC winners will each receive a $50,000 prize.
  • Track 2- SBIR Catalyst:  The winners of the SBIR Catalyst competition facilitated eight collaborative partnerships aimed at building connections across entrepreneur support organizations that foster innovation-driven entrepreneurs from underserved communities. The winners are recognized connectors across programs that fund innovation clusters, hubs, and other technology-based economic development initiatives. The 8 SBIR Catalyst winners will each receive a $150,000 prize. 


Competitors for both tracks were required to submit a presentation deck and a 90-second video to describe their overall plan for an award, including their work with targeted entrepreneur groups, experience with STEM/R&D, and implementation plans for the prize funds. Applications were judged by panels of experts from the private and public sector with experience in early-stage investment, entrepreneurship, academic, startups, and economic development.   


View the Competition Results


Press Release 21-87



More From the Arkansas Winners!


The Conductor



"The Conductor team is thrilled to receive the GAFC prize funding in order to bolster our work with our Health Entrepreneurship Boot Camp programming", said Jeff Standridge, Managing Director of the Conductor. "The award will allow us to expand access to the program to additional participants and regions, so that we can promote healthcare entrepreneurship opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students across the state and region."

View The Conductor's Proposal Video


View Now



Science Venture Studio



“The Science Venture Studio team is greatly appreciative of SBA's support through the GAFC prize funding. We are committed to helping close the funding gap between breakthrough science and commercialization for companies for founders of all backgrounds,” said Katie Thompson, Director of the Science Venture Studio. The GAFC award will allow us to launch a 16-week accelerator titled “EMPOWER” that will be focused on women in STEM. The SVS team will walk hand-in-hand with these female scientists to help them understand the intellectual merit, broader impacts, and commercial opportunities of their research as they expand their impact."

View Science Venture Studio's Proposal Video


View Now



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