Bioconnect Iowa is debuting a new brand two years after shifting its mission toward the state’s biosciences, the organization formerly known as the Iowa Innovation Corp. announced this year.

The change in name is just the start: Bioconnect Iowa partnered this year with Iowa State University’s Startup Factory and VentureNET Iowa to launch the Go-to-Market Accelerator in September, preparing for the inaugural cohort in 2021. When funding stalled at the state level for public university research during the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset, Bioconnect Iowa stepped in to direct $1 million of its own funding from the Iowa Economic Development Authority and redirected it to Iowa State University and the University of Iowa for bioscience research programs this year.

“That’s about advancing the pipeline. A lot of filling the pipeline component is in cooperation and close partnership with the universities,” CEO Jim Register said. “It’s a one-year occurrence, but it’s certainly helped continue to build momentum with those efforts.”

The organization still administers Iowa’s Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer programs, but has pivoted its core focus to four platforms in biosciences: bio-based chemicals, precision and digital agriculture, vaccines and immunotherapeutics, and medical devices. That transition process started around the time Register joined Bioconnect in 2018, he said.

“We didn’t think that Iowa Innovation Corp. had any particular resonance with our new, more bioscience-focused mission,” Register said. 

(Link for Business Record members: A Closer Look with Jim Register.)

With a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Bioconnect Iowa, VentureNet Iowa and ISU Startup Factory program partnered to establish the Iowa Go-to-Market Accelerator targeting highly research-driven startups across industries. G2M is in the process of recruiting applicants for the inaugural cohort, with a goal of hosting around six companies each year from across the state.

“A number of accelerators have been created and blossomed across the state, with a number here in Central Iowa, but most of them focus on fairly early stage companies,” Register said. “We felt that particularly for this category of startup … there was really a gap or a niche where a downstream accelerator program could be a value to these folks.” 

Organizers expect most of the 2021 accelerator session will be held remotely as public response to the COVID-19 pandemic continues, but long-term, the accelerator plans to turn to in-person events. Startup Factory, which is currently without a director, will take over more daily operations once that role is filled. 

“The last couple of years have been a lot about planning and building. I think in 2021, we really begin to move beyond that and into execution,” Register said.