University Economic Development Association

Ecosystem Building with the Tom Love Innovation Hub!

Attendees of the Small Business Administration’s Seed Fund Road Tour, hosted by the University of Oklahoma’s Tom Love Innovation Hub.

This month’s UC Cohort Corner spotlight focuses on the ecosystem building efforts by the Tom Love Innovation Hub (I-Hub), the EDA University Center of the University of Oklahoma. The I-Hub plays a crucial role in the entrepreneurial and small business development in Oklahoma as it inspires, teaches, launches, and supports founders, talent, startups, and ecosystems across Oklahoma and beyond through five main programs:

  • Creator Labs – OU’s experiential learning labs providing physical and software prototyping and content production services to emerging startups, small businesses, university research and other organizations. Creator Labs services are open to anyone with a vast array of resources available to use at no cost and student-based fee-for-service prototyping are available for more complex projects.
  • Startup OU – OU’s entrepreneurship hub that fosters and champions the next generation of Oklahoma founders and entrepreneurial talent. Startup OU is an entry point into OU, state, and regional startup ecosystems; a connection point for founders, university resources, and talent; and a launch point for university-affiliated and Norman startups into the state and regional economies.
  • Canopy HealthTech – Canopy HealthTech fast-tracks early-stage virtual health concepts into life-improving products and startups through nondilutive funding, training, and expert mentorship. Canopy HealthTech is a strong collaboration among Oklahoma’s leading academic research institutions to develop a virtual health innovation cluster in Oklahoma.
  • Oklahoma Biotech Startup Programs – Oklahoma Biotech Startup Programs brings together key partners across academia, investors, corporate, government, and entrepreneurial support organizations to build a vibrant biotech startup community, launch and grow biotech startups across central Oklahoma, and share lessons learned and best practices across the country.
  • OK Catalyst – OK Catalyst utilizes a holistic approach to inspire, guide, launch, and grow scalable technology-based startups through all aspects of securing and managing federal SBIR/STTR funding. OK Catalyst’s programs have been recognized as among the best in the U.S. and leverage SBIR/STTR funding to commercialize university research and launch startups across the Heartland.

Attendees of the SBA’s Seed Fund Road Tour.

Entrepreneurial and small business ecosystem building in Oklahoma required the coordination of various organizations and actors to ensure an effective, non-duplicative system of support. Fortunately, EDA University Center program funding provided I-Hub the capacity to map out Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and identify key gaps as well as opportunities for collaboration. A priority of I-Hub was to expand its impact and relationships beyond the campus in Norman to Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The University Center designation gave I-Hub the opportunity to expand programming beyond Norman and build strong collaborations across Oklahoma’s leading entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Getting a scope on Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial and small business landscape proved to scale the I-Hub’s impact on Oklahoma and beyond. One result is that the I-Hub was able to specialize in assisting clients in accessing non-dilutive federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding through its OK Catalyst programs —a service with reach beyond Oklahoma’s borders, as other states and out-of-state entrepreneurs look to the I-Hub for support. Another result included the opportunities for Oklahoman entrepreneurs and businesses when the Small Business Administration (SBA) was hosted by I-Hub during its America Seed Fund Road Tour in July. 150+ participants had the opportunity to engage with federal agencies, as well as fellow innovators, that can support their businesses and ideas.

What’s next for I-Hub includes reaching out to rural communities and tribal nations to connect their strengths into the ecosystem. Oklahoma’s economic ecosystem is at a key inflection point. Since I-Hub’s original EDA University Center award, Oklahoma’s talent pool, innovation infrastructure, and support systems to facilitate commercialization of research and technology transfer has grown significantly. Oklahoma’s economic ecosystem is poised for even more dramatic growth through recent federal awards such as Oklahoma’s two EDA Build Back Better Regional Competition awards. However, without solid communication, coordination, and awareness, Oklahoma will have difficulty realizing its potential, and this is especially true in Oklahoma’s rural areas. The I-Hub is partnering with Oklahoma’s strong network of workforce development focused technology centers and other community organizations to develop and connect innovation centers across Oklahoma.

The Tom Love Innovation Hub stands to be the center of entrepreneurship and small business development in Oklahoma. The I-Hub builds upon events, like the recent SBA Road Tour which visits local regions to keep communities competitive, to build a vibrant entrepreneurial community and support that community with a holistic suite of support programs and key resources.


For more information about the Tom Love Innovation Hub, click here.

More pictures from the SBA Seed Fund Road Tour below: