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Kentucky Scores Major Partnership with MIT to Fuel Innovation

During Startup Week, state becomes first in US chosen for program that supports long-term entrepreneurial ecosystem

Media Contacts: Nicole Burton
502-564-2611
Nicole.Burton@ky.gov

Jack Mazurak
502-782-1965
Jack.Mazurak@ky.gov

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 11, 2018) – Gov. Matt Bevin and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto announced today Kentucky will participate as one of nine international teams – and the first from the US – in a two-year program that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation organized by one of the world’s top universities. 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) will engage Kentucky’s team, which includes the UK and the Cabinet for Economic Development’s entrepreneurship office, in designing a regionally relevant plan to support entrepreneurs and the innovation environment. The announcement comes as part of Kentucky’s Startup Week.

“Today’s announcement that Kentucky will field a team in the MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program underscores the fact that our state offers some of the most promising people, ideas, business and institutions for innovation-driven success,” Gov. Bevin said. “Kentucky is already a top business environment for innovators and startups. Our participation in this renowned program will make us even stronger. Throughout Startup Week, we’ve been highlighting events and key initiatives that are keeping Kentucky on the entrepreneurial fast track, and we’re proud to add REAP as one of those stand-out endeavors.”

UK president Eli Capilouto said the program amplifies the university’s contributions to Kentucky’s innovation economy.

“Being the first regional team selected from the US signifies that MIT REAP recognizes the University of Kentucky’s central role in the entrepreneurial landscape of the commonwealth,” President Capilouto said. “UK’s role on this team is another example of our growing research enterprise and a shared commitment to fostering a strong and vibrant Kentucky economy.”

MIT REAP, now on its sixth cohort of teams, strengthens, deepens and widens the ecosystem for innovative startups by creating collaboration between entrepreneurs, universities, government, corporate representatives and venture capital. Workshops every six to nine months throughout four learning cycles are followed by action phases, during which teams return home to analyze, validate assumptions and implement new programs and policies.

In addition to providing participants access to the school’s academic and business development resources, MIT REAP plugs team members into its Sloan School of Management and an alumni network that boasts some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurial success stories. 

Luke Ramsay, University of Kentucky Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky (CEDIK) economic development extension specialist, is the Kentucky team’s champion.

“We are thrilled to have been selected,” Ramsay said. “The fact that we are the first region from the United States selected for this program is a great signal that Kentucky is serious about entrepreneurism and finding the best ways to support our local innovators.”

Brian Mefford, who leads the Cabinet’s entrepreneurship office, said Kentucky’s participation in MIT REAP will further distinguish the state as a top location for innovation.

“This program promises to bring incredible value to our state, its innovation economy and to current and future startups,” Mefford said. “We are already hard at work developing a forward-thinking system that serves our startups, traditional small businesses, innovation-driven entrepreneurs and investors. MIT REAP’s proven initiative aligns perfectly with our goal of empowering founders to rapidly scale their companies, create jobs and advance the state’s economy.”

Typical REAP regions encompass 1-10 million people. Each partner region fields a team of driven and influential members, headed by a regional team champion. Kentucky’s team members include: Ramsay; Mefford; Rusty Justice, Bit Source Technologies; Stacey Hughes, Logan Aluminum; Sam Ford, Future of Work Initiative; John Roush, Centre College president;  Kevin Loux, Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR); and Casey Barach, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED senior vice president for high growth entrepreneurship. The Kentucky team will also engage other stakeholders in education, economic development and workforce development.

The team will identify one or more strategic interventions to implement during the two years and research to measure impact. Business accelerators, diaspora networks and immigration policies, prizes and competitions and early stage capital approaches are among the initiatives that could be enacted.

Along with Kentucky, fellow teams in the sixth cohort are Campania, Italy; Central Denmark; Guangzhou, China; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Leeds City, United Kingdom; Monterrey, Mexico; Oslo and Akershus, Norway; and Sydney, Australia.

For more information about MIT REAP, visit http://reap.mit.edu.

Information on Kentucky’s economic development efforts and programs is available at ThinkKentucky.com. Fans of the Cabinet for Economic Development can also join the discussion on Facebook or follow on Twitter. Watch the Cabinet’s “This is My Kentucky” video on YouTube.

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