Connecticut Jobs: Our Number 1 Priority

This year we made economic growth and support for small business a priority. Here are some of our 2016 initiatives:

CTNext Board

Creates an eleven-member board, including a majority of serial entrepreneurs, as a subsidiary of Connecticut Innovations, supported by a CTNext Executive Director and staff of its choosing, to guide the non-capital, innovation ecosystem programs at CI created by the bill. President of Connecticut Innovations serves as board chair.

Innovation Places

Provides $30 million of bond funding for the planning and development of Innovation Places and concentrated nodes of entrepreneurs, innovators, tech talent, support organizations and research institutions in dense, walkable, transit-connected, mixed-use neighborhoods. Catalytic projects to increase the innovation capacity of Innovation Places will be funded by the CTNext board through a competitive process using the $30 million in bond funds. In addition, existing programs of DECD, DOH, CHFA, DEEP, OPM and DOT will be targeted to the selected Innovation Places. CTNext will reserve up to $3 million of the $30 million of bond funds for initiatives that will serve to network the funded Innovation Places to each other. CTNext will reserve up to $500,000 of the $30 million for planning grants of up to $50,000, scaled to the size of the ultimate funding request. Notice of availability of a first round of planning grants will be promoted by CI at passage of the bill for a simple planning grant application due by October 1, 2016, which will be awarded by November 15, 2016 by the CTNext board, to develop final applications due by April 1, 2017.

Entrepreneurship Support Programs

Maintains and expands CI’s existing CTNext programs to provide $5 million per year of flexible funding for a wide range of entrepreneur support initiatives, including Entrepreneurs in Residence, incubators, accelerators, mentoring, and co-work space. CTNext funding decisions will be made by the CTNext board. These funds will be targeted to Innovation Places.

Tech Talent Development Fund

Sets a 10-year goal to at least double Connecticut’s stock of software developers, and other critically short tech talent, by 2026 through a combination of: 1) the recruitment of talent from outside Connecticut; 2) the upskilling or reskilling existing workers in other fields; and 3) the traditional pipeline of high school-to-college matriculation. Creates an initial pool of $10 million of bond funds for grants to develop or expand programs to meet the goal, overseen by a Tech Talent Development Fund Board, named by and reporting to the Commissioner of DECD, with a mix of industry and education representatives. The $10 million will be used for pilot projects such as:

  • Support for marketing and public relations aimed at talent attraction, in joint venture with the recruitment efforts of private employers. The Fund could also support loan forgiveness programs as a talent retention and attraction tool.
  • Boot camps, gap year and apprenticeship programs by private trainers.
  • Early college academies, community college/four-year articulation, increased faculty/facilities for computer science, teacher training, and college internship and apprenticeship programs.

Once critical success factors are identified via the pilot grants, the best ideas will be replicated and scaled through a follow-on pool of grant funding in subsequent years.

Support for Growing Small Businesses

Provides $1 million per year for 5 years of funds to support programs aimed at firms which have successfully navigated the startup phase and which are poised for growth (“Stage 2 Companies”), as well as for mature small business that have plateaued, but that have potential to reignite growth. This funding would be used for three purposes: 1) to increase annual DECD investment from $150,000 to $400,000 in the Connecticut Supplier Connection, which links small business suppliers to large business buyers in Connecticut; 2) to increase funding from $300,000 to $600,000 in Connecticut’s Procurement Technical Assistance Program, which links small business suppliers to state and federal buyers (the increase of $300,000 will trigger a $300,000 federal match); and 3) to create a pool of $450,000 for Growth Grants of up to $25,000 for Stage 2 companies, through a streamlined application process overseen by the CTNext board. The Growth Grants will require a one-third match by the company and will be targeted at areas most likely to unlock growth, including sales assistance, marketing, strategy, organizational development, technology assistance; bid assistance; prototype development; and beta testing of products with new customers.

University Innovation Ecosystems

Provides $10 million of seed funding to strengthen the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems at all of Connecticut’s colleges and universities, public and private. Funds to be allocated by the CTNext board based on a plan developed by a Working Group of the presidents of the state’s public and private colleges and universities, convened and supported by the CTNext Director. The plan will:

  • Define the scope and scale of a university innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem, both overall and by institution, to include elements ranging from mentorship of student entrepreneurs to commercialization of university intellectual property, and everything in between.
  • Identify the key emerging conditions impacting the ecosystem, both overall and by institution, and the capabilities needed to exploit the key opportunities and mitigate the key risks.
  • Analyze the capabilities of each institution, with a focus on potential for synergy across institutions.
  • Identify the key catalytic projects that would build upon current capabilities, create missing capabilities, and in particular, link the capabilities of institutions to each other in mutually advantageous ways.

Yale University’s Office of Cooperative Research and the Yale Entrepreneurship Institute have agreed to serve as advisors to the planning process, working with the CTNext staff, and will not seek grant funding under the program.

The CTNext board will create a smaller advisory board to assist it in reviewing proposals from higher education institutions to implement the catalytic projects in the plan developed by the larger Working Group. The advisory board will include representatives of university technology transfer offices, university and college entrepreneurship programs, student and faculty entrepreneurs, and Entrepreneurs in Residence working on university or college campuses.

Increasing the Number of VC Firms and Deployed Private Capital in Connecticut

Provides authority for CI to invest some of its funds into other CT-based venture capital firms, including outside firms who open an office in Connecticut. The funds will be required to be invested in Connecticut companies. CI will also be empowered to use some of its funds, if necessary, to create incentives that will induce these venture capital firms to invest more of their funds in Connecticut firms.

Program/Policy and Ecosystem Evaluation

Provides up to $500,000 to a policy institute, higher education institution or research organization, selected by the CTNext board through a competitive process to:

  • Conduct program audits of the major initiatives funded by the bill.
  • Conduct a policy audit of Connecticut business regulations to determine their positive/negative effect on the growth of the state’s innovation ecosystem.
  • Develop key metrics to assess the health of the state’s innovation ecosystem.
  • Assess the metrics on a periodic basis, benchmarking Connecticut’s performance against key competitive states.
  • Analyze key factors contributing to success or failure and recommend changes in programs, funding levels, legislation and regulation.

Connecticut 500 Project

Through the Commission on Economic Competitiveness this project will:

  • Create a net increase of 500,000 new private sector jobs over the next 25 years,
  • Set and achieve the state’s cornerstone economic development goals for the next generations
  • Establish a permanent governing board authorized to take specific steps to accomplish these tasks.

The governing board of the CT 500 Project must propose legislation, leverage public and private investment in Connecticut and the project, solicit funds, solicit private funds to match public dollars, evaluate economic development policies.

The Project’s Goals are to:

  1. Increase, the state’s population by 5,000 new residents;
  2. Create 500 new startup businesses based on intellectual property developed in Connecticut.
  3. Increase by 500 the annual number of students graduating from each state college and university
  4. Place Connecticut among the top five nationally ranked states with respect to economic growth, public education, quality of life, and private sector employee salary
  5. Maintain Connecticut’s top five ranking with respect to productivity, higher education and per capita income.