The Iowa Economic Development Authority awards funding to startups in the form of low-interest loans through its Innovation Continuum, which includes five funds that are designed to offer companies nondilutive funding at every stage of business growth. The funds are: Proof of Commercial Relevance (POCR), Demonstration Fund and the Innovation Acceleration Fund, which offers Launch, Propel and Innovation Expansion awards.

These financing options are geared toward companies operating in the fields of advanced manufacturing, biosciences or information technology. Each fund in the continuum also requires the company to supply matching funds, which could come from family and friends funding, outside investors or federal funding programs like the Small Business Innovation Research program.

Starting this year, IEDA has provided additional funding through the U.S. Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). Iowa received $96 million from SSBCI, and $22 million was allocated to increasing the amount of funding available through each of IEDA’s innovation funds. For example, before the SSBCI funding, companies could receive a POCR loan of up to $25,000; now POCR loans of up to $50,000 are available.

After the application process, which includes an interview with a panel of experts in the industry the company operates in, companies present to the IEDA Technology Commercialization Committee (TCC). The TCC then makes recommendations to the IEDA board for final approval of awards.

The SSBCI Review Committee also reviews and scores applications and makes recommendations to the executive director of IEDA for final approval of awards that are funded through the SSBCI allocation. Both committees meet every two months.

Below are the startups and organizations that received funding through IEDA programs in the first quarter of 2024.

IEDA Innovation Fund

Rise Energy – Ames: $50,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan. Rise Energy is commercializing a modular system that can deploy technology for industrial processors to generate value by converting their existing biomass feedstocks into renewable fuels, chemicals and products. The modules provide a solution for using biomass to create upgradeable liquids, which can be used in production of sustainable aviation fuels, renewable fuels, asphalt binders and biochar, which is used to sequester carbon.

PicklePlay – Cedar Falls: $50,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan. PicklePlay is a digital platform that can help users find pickleball courts and events, engage with players and groups, and organize their play schedule.

Tumbleweed – Des Moines: $50,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan. The startup is building software that provides individuals, families, executors and trustees with a solution that helps users navigate the intricacies of end-of-life planning or following a death.

Spanton Board Inc. – Fairfield: $100,000 Demonstration Fund loan. The medtech startup created the first power-driven spine board to effectively safeguard athletes following a serious injury. Long term, Spanton Board plans to expand from the pro sports market to military and emergency medical services.

Inseer Inc. – Iowa City: $250,000 Innovation Acceleration Launch Fund loan. Inseer leverages a proprietary AI computer vision system to enhance workplace safety, improve ergonomics and boost productivity in manufacturing environments. Short videos capture and analyze movement data so employees can receive risk assessment solutions and objectively offer any safety corrections.

UpStream – North Liberty: $50,000 Proof of Commercial Relevance loan. UpStream has developed technology called the Outfall SmartCell to facilitate remote source water monitoring. The platform is a fully automated system that can withstand all environments for uninterrupted communication and data delivery for water quality detection.

State Small Business Credit Initiative

Cellular Engineering Technologies Inc. – Coralville: $250,000 Innovation Acceleration Launch Fund award. Cellular Engineering Technologies is a biotech company developing optimized reagents and human cell lines for next-generation cell-based therapies. Its technology is used by stem cell therapy research scientists and developers.

ReEnvision Ag – Nora Springs: $175,000 Demonstration Fund loan. The company created a planter row system for farmers with technology that injects the seed with low soil disturbance to optimize soil health and maximize soil carbon sequestration.

PigEasy – Templeton: $175,000 Demonstration Fund loan. The family-owned company develops products that simplify daily tasks on the farm to improve productivity and efficiency and reduce costs. Product help with tasks like artificially inseminating sows and monitoring sow feeding and drinking activity.

MakuSafe Corp. – West Des Moines: $500,000 Innovation Acceleration Propel Fund loan. MakuSafe aims to improve worker health, safety and productivity while reducing worker compensation claims and mitigating workplace risks. The proprietary wearable technology gathers real-time environmental and ergonomic data from workers to identify high-risk trends in a facility.