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Doug Meijer Innovation Building Plaza

Grand Rapids SmartZone selects Spartan Innovations to provide technology district incubator services

Posted: Friday, September 10, 2021
Category: Spartan Innovations
Spartan Innovations Logo

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. –  The Smartzone LDFA approved on September 8th an agreement with Spartan Innovations & Start Garden to collaborate and manage its SmartZone Incubator and related hi-tech business support services.

In response to the City’s request for proposals issued this past spring, Spartan Innovations and Start Garden submitted separate proposals. The SmartZone LDFA selected both operators, contingent upon the successful collaboration with each other to implement the SmartZone LDFA project’s goals and objectives.

Spartan Innovations & Start Garden will collaboratively fill the role of incubator operators within the City Certified Technology District from September 15 through June 30, 2024. Their services are aligned to achieve the goals detailed in the City’s Equitable Economic Development and Mobility Strategic Plan and detailed in approved scopes of work. Under the terms of the three-year, $5.5 million investment, the SmartZone program budget shall not exceed $1 million in capital and start-up costs and $1.5 million in operational support per year, contingent upon actual tax capture and/or available fund balance. Spartan Innovations will receive $761,000 per year for operations and Start Garden will receive $739,000 per year for operations.

The partners will coordinate and collaborate on entrepreneurship services and address business development needs and services for high-tech, high growth businesses located within the city and within its district. Services will include entrepreneur in residence programs, lease space for high-tech, high-growth companies and related entrepreneur support programming.

Spartan Innovations, a subsidiary of the Michigan State University Foundation, is working closely with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and the Grand Rapids Innovation Park.  The incubator space will located on the 4th floor of the Doug Meijer Innovation Building (see photo).

Incubator Space at Doug Meijer Innovation Building at MSU Grand Rapids Innovation Park

The partners have developed metrics that will guide the work and services offered to the Grand Rapids hi-tech, hi-growth entrepreneur community. These metrics have a focus on companies served, funds raised, companies expanded, and the sustainability of the SmartZone by obtaining outside funding. The incubator will also operate with an overall focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Jeremiah Gracia, economic development director for the City of Grand Rapids, said, “This partnership gives Grand Rapids’ SmartZone a competitive advantage. It melds the distinct and individual expertise of two partners to benefit and energize the local economy. We are pleased of the synergy that will be created from this collaboration.”

Each of the SmartZone collaborators are also ready and eager to get the partnership underway for the benefit of the community and local economy.

“This is an exciting initiative and Spartan Innovations, along with the MSU College of Human Medicine and our other affiliated entities, are thankful for the opportunity to work with LDFA and the Grand Rapids community partners to help build out a world class entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Jeff Wesley, executive director of Spartan Innovations, said. “All of the components are here and we can’t wait to get started!”

“Whether coming from a university or a neighborhood, the goal is for Grand Rapids to be the best place for an innovative entrepreneur to start and stay.” Paul Moore, director of Start Garden, said.

About the Michigan State University Foundation

Established in 1973 as an independent non-profit, the Michigan State University Foundation is committed to the commercialization of cutting-edge technologies invented by MSU faculty, staff, and students. The MSU Foundation’s overarching goal is to support research, innovation, and entrepreneurship at the University. Additionally, the MSU Foundation operates Spartan Innovations, Red Cedar Ventures, Michigan Rise, and the University Corporate Research Park. More information on the organization’s notable achievements, services, leadership, and history are available at