Three weeks after Kansas City’s designation as a U.S. “Tech Hub,” the region has earned “tremendous funding to jumpstart KC’s digital health cluster,” said Maria Meyers, informally announcing a $2 million federal grant — matched by an award from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The Build to Scale grant was awarded to the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), along with partners BioNexus KC, KC Digital Drive, and Pipeline Entrepreneurs to advance Digital Health KC, which launched in March as an offshoot of BioNexus KC.
Totaling $4 million with Kauffman’s match, the public-private investment is expected to help cultivate more than 20 new startups in the region, 15 completed beta customer projects, $45 million in debt and equity investments, and 500 new jobs for the KC region, according to BioNexus KC.
“Ecosystem building is a team sport, and it starts with community organizations uniting for a common purpose — to build a thriving digital health network with intentionality,” said Meyers, executive director of the UMKC Innovation Center. “We are pleased to partner and grateful to the Kauffman Foundation for providing needed matching funds to bring this federal investment to the region. Our collective commitment to digital health will catapult the KC region and profoundly impact our community.”
[Editor’s note: The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a financial supporter of Startland News.]
The newly announced funding is specifically expected to fuel Digital Health KC to support healthcare technology entrepreneurs, foster innovation, build and strengthen the region’s talent pool, and inspire economic growth, according to BioNexus KC.
Funding momentum comes amid a focused effort to spotlight Kansas City’s regional assets and grow them into the destination for the digital health and biomanufacturing industries, said Maria Flynn, advisory board chair of Digital Health KC.
“These announcements showcase the great things going on in Kansas City. It is wonderful to get the attention at the national level that our ecosystem is a great place to invest,” said Flynn, who also is founder and CEO of the startup Ambiologix. “Kauffman’s match and the broad community support certainly strengthened our application.”
Funding for the Build to Scale grant comes via the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), which also is administering the Tech Hubs program.
“Digital Health KC and the Biomanufacturing Tech Hub go hand in hand in taking existing regional strengths and creating a plan to grow them into even stronger ecosystems,” Flynn said. “Having both clusters headquartered at BioNexus KC will help in coordination with BioNexus KC’s mission to collaborate across the ecosystem.”
Over the next three years, Digital Health KC and partners are expected to develop programming to increase understanding of building healthcare solutions, executing a go-to-market plan, and identifying and providing industry-specific mentors and business acumen support.
“Our ecosystem is rich in talent and ideas but requires additional financial and industry-specific support,” said Dick Flanigan, CEO of Digital Health KC. “Solving healthcare’s most significant challenges involves people, processes, and technology, all aligned to provide solutions. Digital health offerings are among the most promising solutions seeking to improve access and quality while addressing the ever-increasing cost of care.”
Meyers and Flynn appeared Tuesday morning alongside Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, the new president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation, during ESO Day at Plexpod Westport by Park 39 — an early, day-long season of Global Entrepreneurship Week-Kansas City.
Among other comments Tuesday, Burns-Wallace emphasized the need for cross-community collaboration to continue the legacy of Kauffman Foundation founder and entrepreneurial icon Ewing Marion Kauffman.
While much attention has deservedly been paid to headline-grabbing recognitions of the past few weeks, said Dennis Ridenour, president and CEO of BioNexus KC, it is important to acknowledge the years of work behind the scenes.
“Over the past 25 years, there has been an intentional and focused commitment to the life sciences and healthcare ecosystems in the KC region,” said Ridenour, noting the “rich foundation of life sciences investment” that set the stage for Tuesday’s announcement and the Tech Hubs designation.
Combining that work, the region’s assets and the community’s willingness to work collectively brings not only national recognition, but an inspiring vision for the future, he continued.
“Great things lie ahead for sure!” Ridenour said.