The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) was granted $500,000 by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Assistance program, according to a press release from Rep. Salud Carbajal published Sept. 25.

The grant money will be allocated to building a new innovation lab and expanding the existing accelerator program. These measures will support local startups after the Diablo Canyon Power Plant closure, according to CIE Communications Manager Candice Conti.

Currently, the 12-week accelerator program grants new companies $10,000 in seed money, Conti said. It is used to pay staff, mentors and provide advice on start-ups’ business plans.

The planning of the innovation lab, which will also be funded by the grant, is still in development. The lab will help manufacturing-based startups develop their products in one location.

“Basically the lab is going to be a place for early stage startups who are interested in manufacturing and it will allow them to be prototyping and it will help develop the expertise to create a sellable product for markets,” Conti said. “While we do have some companies now that have various locations where they go to develop their products outside of SLO Hothouse, we would like to be able to have a singular place where all the accelerator and seeder companies go to use.”

The grant-funded expansions are only part of CIE’s planned measures to compensate for the loss of jobs from Diablo Canyon’s closure. According to Conti, the center has recently expanded to accept more companies.

“We’ve currently accepted community startups into our incubator program and that program had in the past only been available for Cal Poly students,” Conti said. “Now we are accepting community startups that didn’t go through the traditional routes of getting into our programs at Cal Poly.”

Conti said, in light of the closure, it’s even more important to the CIE to encourage economic growth.

“We’re hoping that we really help with making the economic development in our town stronger by allowing startups to grow locally, stay locally and employ locally,” Conti said. “That’s something that is a big plan for us in that we want Cal Poly to be seen as the number one option entrepreneurial school, and we want to help to continue to grow jobs on the Central Coast.”

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