Grand Rapids Community Foundation Awards $500,000 Grant to InnovationWorks

Multi-year grant will help sustain program that aims to strengthen West Michigan’s economy and create jobs through innovation.

The Board of Trustees of Grand Rapids Community Foundation recently approved a grant of $500,000, over two years, to support The Right Place’s Innovation Works program. Foundation and Right Place officials will publicly announce the grant at a news conference on Wednesday, October 15 from 10:30-11:30am at the Press Club of Grand Rapids (Club is part of the University Club, which is on the 10th floor of the Fifth Third Bank building in downtown Grand Rapids).

With this grant, The Right Place will be able to sustain the InnovationWorks program and continue building West Michigan’s innovation infrastructure, leading to new jobs and increased wealth in West Michigan. InnovationWorks was developed and launched using funds provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) initiative. However, in January 2009 the WIRED funding will expire.

Economic development is among the six funding priorities of the Community Foundation and it is often the most difficult to measure. “We believe that one long term outcome will be that new products created and patented here will create new jobs. In the short term it will help further brand Grand Rapids as a center of innovation – a place that welcomes and attracts new ideas, creative people and businesses,” said Diana Sieger, president of Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

“The strength and success of West Michigan’s economy will largely depend on our region’s ability to remain innovative, in both products and processes,” said Birgit Klohs, President and CEO of The Right Place, Inc. “Building an innovation infrastructure not only helps strengthen and retain existing companies, but also encourages business expansion and the creation of new jobs.”

Since its inception, InnovationWorks has built and launched a comprehensive innovation infrastructure of tools and resources, the IdeaPortal™, Collaborative Networks, and held several innovation coaching events. To date, InnovationWorks has successfully written over 95 regional innovation plans, held 11 innovation-oriented events in West Michigan, and have worked with 288 clients in the commercialization of new ideas.

InnovationWorks is an integral part of The Right Place’s economic development services, fostering open innovation among the region’s businesses, entrepreneurs, and inventors. The group provides a system of resources and tools connecting companies to ideas, mining for inventions, and coaching on the commercialization process.

InnovationWorks is a seven-county regional innovation growth program by The Right Place, developed in partnership with several other economic development organizations in West Michigan. The program is building a dynamic innovation infrastructure in West Michigan that will ultimately lead to new jobs and increased wealth creation in the region.

“We believe InnovationWorks is ideal for this community; it is a solid model for vetting new products and ideas. At this time in West Michigan’s economy, there is a need to support regional entrepreneurs in bringing their ideas and to fruition. It provides a valuable service at a critical time,” said Sieger. “While there are many opportunities for inventors and innovators to work with brokers, there are often substantial costs involved in even determining if an idea has merit. The linkages, low or no cost assessment, training, planning and coaching that are part of InnovationWorks are valuable,” said Sieger.

“This is a long-term investment in West Michigan’s future. The Community Foundation understands the importance of building an innovation infrastructure and we are proud to work with this outstanding organization,” said Klohs.

Today, it is estimated that one in thirty patents reach the marketplace. With the support from the Community Foundation, InnovationWorks will work to improve that statistic, building new products and processes.

About The Right Place, Inc. ( The Right Place, Inc., organized in 1985, is a private/public partnership for economic development dedicated to job retention and job creation in the greater Grand Rapids area. Its strategic priorities include: leading business retention, expansion and attraction; identifying and developing emerging growth opportunities; strengthening manufacturing leadership and innovation; leading urban redevelopment vital to business retention and attraction; and leading regional initiatives in economic development.

About Grand Rapids Community Foundation (

With its endowment the Grand Rapids Community Foundation supports local nonprofits, leads significant social change and helps donors achieve their philanthropic goals.