Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation Receives South Carolina Innovation Grant

By Shelia Watson | Share: Posted on

The Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation was among 14 recipients statewide to receive a grant from the S.C. Department of Commerce as part of its innovation plan.

In its inaugural round of innovation-related grants, Commerce is has awarded $2.4 million in grant funds to 14 organizations across the state to further high-tech and entrepreneurial economic development.

The Corridor Foundation was one of four tri-county organizations to receive an award. The Foundation's $247,000 grant will provide funding for CODEcamp, a software education initiative focused on developing new talent and providing students with the skills they need – including hands-on training, mentorship and networking- to enter the workplace and develop high-tech software skills.

"We are delighted that our CODEcamp software education and talent development initiative has won an award under the first Innovation Challenge offered by the South Carolina Department of Commerce," said Ernest Andrade, director of the Charleston Digital Corridor Foundation. "Funds received from this award will allow us to upgrade our existing computer lab and extend the program's reach beyond the approximately 425 students who have benefited from the program since its launch in 2012."

As part of its efforts to support and grow an innovative, technology-based and entrepreneurial business environment, the Department of Commerce launched the state's first Office of Innovation in the fall of 2013.

In January, the Department of Commerce issued a notice of funding opportunity, dubbed the South Carolina Innovation Challenge, soliciting proposals for projects that focus on fostering technology-based economic development, entrepreneurship and innovation in South Carolina communities through university collaboration, local government participation or public-private partnerships.

Projects were required to address one or more goals of the South Carolina Innovation Plan, which include: developing a critical mass of high-tech firms in targeted clusters, ensuring that South Carolina's innovation community is well-connected with ample opportunities for networking, ensuring that entrepreneurs have adequate access to funding for all stages of business development, and ensuring that South Carolina's workforce is equipped with the skills and knowledge that tomorrow's high-tech companies will required.

"Beyond connecting qualified talent to tech companies, our primary focus is on cultivating the technology community and helping grow the talent that's needed for the expansion of innovation in this area," said Andrade. "We were pleased to note that we met not just one but all of the South Carolina Innovation Plan's goals."

Proposals totaling more than $6.8 million rolled in from cities, county offices, chambers of commerce, universities, startup incubators and accelerators to apply for the $2.5 million available in first-round funds.

A project could be awarded a maximum of $250,000 in grant funds, with a required non-state match of funds. A second round of competitive grant funds is expected to be announced later this year.

"I'm excited to see the energy and impact that South Carolina's startup community has created, and we hope to help continue that momentum through this new program," said Secretary of Commerce Bobby Hitt. "The knowledge economy represents a vital part of South Carolina's present and future. Through the Office of Innovation, we want to create a business environment in South Carolina that is ideal to start and build a high-growth company."

Projects at 14 organizations in Anderson, Beaufort, Charleston, Darlington, Florence, Greenville, Horry, Pickens, Richland, Spartanburg and York counties were selected to receive funding. The diverse projects focused on IT training, entrepreneur support, fostering startup companies and agribusiness.