Nancy Gray, the new director of the BioVentures business incubator at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, is developing an entrepreneur-in-residence program to help mentor potential startup founders at the school.
Gray, who took over at BioVentures earlier this year, wants to have “five or six” established founders from the incubator serve as entrepreneurs-in-residence to guide those researchers, doctors and nurses at UAMS looking to commercialize a good idea or product.
The positions will be voluntary and Gray said she already has three lined up. Currently, she has two Ph.D’s and a nurse to serve as what she calls internal mentors, and is looking to add two MDs, a clinician and a researcher.
BioVentures has produced about 40 spinoff companies since its creation in the late ’90s, Gray said. Several of them are client firms of Innovate Arkansas — Angel Eye Camera Systems, HD Nursing, RxResults, InterveXion Therapeutics and Balm Innovations are a few — and represent startups founded by researchers, MDs and nurses.
“I’m trying to bring them in from a variety of backgrounds,” she said. “This could be a way to drive up the number potential spinoffs we produce. UAMS has all sorts of employees who could be very entrepreneurial if they had the support system.”
Gray’s mentors will provide that system, and she said once in place, they will design the support program.
“One thing I doscovered when I joined UAMS was that one of the barriers we had to spinning off companies was not knowing how to get started,” she said. “Other universities have entrepreneur-in-residence programs. The state has a pretty good support system for entrepreneurs, but having people here who’ve already walked the walk in the university system and can serve as internal mentors will be a big help.”
Gray said she envisions these internal mentors serving as program ambassadors on and off the UAMS campus as well. The program should be up and running officially by this fall, she said.