Black & Veatch, LaunchKC open COVID-19 grants competition

A newly announced grants competition could boost both the health of Kansas City’s startup community, as well as those affected by the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), according to Startland News on Saturday.

“The Black & Veatch COVID-19 Response Accelerator is designed for growing companies looking to scale emerging solutions to save lives, help communities cope, and protect the economy,” the accelerator — an offshoot of Black & Veatch’s IgniteX program in partnership with LaunchKC — said Friday.

The opportunity is open to companies nationwide that can help reduce the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, but need help commercializing and rapidly deploying to fulfill a demonstrated and immediate market need, according to the Overland Park-based engineering firm.

The accelerator is grant-based with no equity transfer required, said Jim Malle, coordinator of entrepreneurship and industry initiatives for the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, which runs LaunchKC alongside the Downtown Council of Kansas City.

“A minimum of $250,000 in the pool as of right now,” Malle said. “Grants will vary pending the company, but our goal is a minimum of $25,000. A company could receive $100,000. It depends on the solution and technology.”

Click here to apply for the accelerator. Due to the nature of the pandemic, all work sessions will take place virtually, so there is no need to relocate.

“We are reviewing, judging and selecting in real-time to get cash into startups’ hands that have technology solutions to help stop the spread of the virus or have technology that could positively affect our situation,” Malle said.

The accelerator is open to financial contributions from other corporate partners or institutions that want to boost its impact on the fight against COVID-19, he added.

A director for the accelerator was not immediately announced, though the recent Black & Veatch IgniteX Cleantech Accelerator was led by Hyleme George, the company’s associate vice president for innovation and strategy.

Unlike the recent cleantech accelerator, the new COVID-19 Response Accelerator has no set program or rigid timeframe. LaunchKC and Black & Veatch plan to partner with startups to deploy a solution as quickly as possible in the field, either as a test pilot or with actual customers, according to the accelerator.

Examples of COVID-19 solutions currently being explored for development or operationalizing:

Testing/screening technologies and centers
Emergency medical facilities
Deployment of new disinfection technologies
Autonomous delivery networks
Biotech-related services
Modular communications (e.g., WiFi kiosks in underserved communities)
Construction site safety and health technologies
Wastewater testing and disinfection
Disease tracking software
Local production of critical resources (food, energy, water, etc.)
Remote collaboration software and tools
Operations and continuity support for critical essential infrastructure
Distance learning/training
Supply-chain solutions
Rapid/modular construction technologies
Black & Veatch offers participants in the accelerator access to a vast, global network of mentors, customers and investors, the company said, emphasizing the wealth of connections and resources available to help bring startups’ ideas to reality.

“We bring decades of experience in nearly every critical industry,” Black & Veatch said. “With a team of 10,000-plus professionals and offices around the globe, we can build, deploy and commercialize solutions with unmatched speed and efficacy.”