IGNITE Startup Grant Applications Open with a $1 Million Fund

This article is sponsored by the Prince William County Department of Economic Development (PWCDED)

In Prince William County, 2023 is kicking off with a new round of IGNITE Startup Grants that will provide funding for high-growth entrepreneurs who want to call the area home.

“Our board is committing $1 million in new funding that will allow us to support new companies and grow the county’s entrepreneurial ecosystem this year,” explained Christina Winn, Executive Director of Prince William County Department of Economic Development (PWCDED).

Winn said the funding is an essential tool to support entrepreneurial-minded companies in Prince William County, which has one of the fastest-growing life sciences ecosystems in the BioHealth Capital Region. It provides financial footing for startups across multiple industries, from the life sciences to cybersecurity and beyond.

Winn said Prince William County’s ecosystem has become a haven for companies that have their roots in fabrication, for “the makers who want to build their ideas.” She said the county has seen significant success, which is being further bolstered by the IGNITE program.

Ribbon cutting during the grand opening of the Northern Virginia BIoscience Center (SOURCE: PWCDED)

In the life sciences, Prince William County has a rapidly expanding biotechnology cluster anchored by George Mason University, ATCC (American Type Culture Collection), the Prince William Science Accelerator and the Northern Virginia Bioscience Center. Other ecosystem highlights include the Mason Biomedical Research Labs, the Center for Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine and the Institute for Biomedical Innovation.

A new funding tranche allowed the IGNITE program to offer a third tier of grants totaling $100,000. Prior to this, grants were only offered at $25,000 and $50,000 levels. The third level allows the PWCDED to offer financial support for companies that have an available product in the marketplace or have received significant seed funding.

“What we’re looking for are entrepreneurs and innovators that have a compelling product or idea that can be tested and executed in the market,” said Winn, who joined PWCDED nearly four years ago. “If you’ve got a great idea, we want you to apply.”

One exciting sector Winn believes can find a home in Prince William County is the expanding agri-business technology space. Winn said this industry sector, which includes the manufacture of synthetic foods, is an emerging technology that offers exciting potential for global growth. 

“In addition to our supportive government programs like IGNITE, we have the workforce in place to help companies grow and expand in the tech sector,” Winn said.

Grant applications open on Jan. 10. Grants will be awarded throughout the year and will close Dec. 1, 2023, or when the funds are depleted, Winn said.

First piloted in 2020, the IGNITE program was started to support high-growth entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Backed by federal funding from the CARES Act, the county awarded 13 grants in 2021 and 2022. Among those first recipients was Justin Amoyal, co-founder and chief executive officer of Impruvon Health, a company developing medication management software for healthcare providers. Impruvon received a $50,000 IGNITE Startup Grant in 2021 to support its critical mission of ensuring distribution of prescribed levels of medication to patients.

The IGNITE program also provides networking and masterclass education opportunities for entrepreneurs. In June 2022, PWCDED sponsored Amoyal’s attendance at the Collision conference in Toronto as part of his IGNITE program participation.

Other companies that received IGNITE grants include Virongy Biosciences, ZeoVation, Cyret Technologies, Jeeva Informatics, Viva Vita and more.

Biotech startups gain additional guidance from the life sciences mentors established by the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) and the Virginia Small Business Development Center. The mentors, all of whom have vast experience within the industry, provide the entrepreneurs with guidance in business development and help them prepare business models that can lead to potential success within the state’s ecosystem. 

Beyond supporting an ecosystem of sustainable businesses, programs like IGNITE establish a sense of community among the Prince William County businesses. Community is a word Winn finds herself using more and more when she looks at the county’s business landscape. The PWCDED serves to nurture and support the community and become a go-to resource for the business leaders.

“At the end of the day, we want our businesses to stay and grow in Prince William County,” Winn said. “We want to create a platform and the opportunities for our businesses to get in front of the right audiences. You can’t go wrong in Prince William County. We’re here to help you succeed.”