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Lean Rocket Lab, LTU's Centrepolis Accelerator Receive Federal Grant to Grow COVID-19 Response

U.S. Department of Commerce awards $29 million in SPRINT Challenge grants to respond to coronavirus pandemic through innovation and entrepreneurship


Ken Seneff

(517) 914-2486


Thursday, April 8, 2021

JACKSON—U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced this week that a total of $29 million would be awarded to 44 organizations as part of the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology (SPRINT) Challenge. This includes a $569,300 federal grant from the Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) for Lean Rocket Lab, a Jackson, Mich.-based business incubator and accelerator that supports and invests in high-growth, high-impact companies across Michigan.

The SPRINT Challenge was launched last year to harness America’s entrepreneurial potential to address the economic, health, and safety risks caused by the coronavirus pandemic through entrepreneurship and innovation, according to the EDA.

“Michigan startups and entrepreneurs have proven their innovation and ingenuity time and again over the past year, developing innovative ways to keep our communities safe through COVID-19,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “We applaud Lean Rocket Lab and Lawrence Technological University for their work in earning these federal resources and look forward to seeing how their efforts continue to help us put this pandemic behind us together, once and for all.”

The funding will support Lean Rocket Lab’s Manu-Tech Virtual Incubator Covid Response Unit, which is being led in partnership with Lawrence Technological University’s Centrepolis Accelerator, both of which are part of the statewide SmartZone network supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The project will deliver virtual programming, mentorship, incubator facilities, access to statewide manufacturing partners and suppliers, and access to the state of Michigan’s startup community and investor network.

The goal of the program is to expand access to the resources available through Lean Rocket Lab’s programming and support the ongoing engagements with client companies. It is also anticipated to bring 20 new companies to Michigan, create 120 jobs, and generate $25 million in new client investment capital.

“The program was inspired by the incredible entrepreneurs we’ve seen from across the state and the globe, who have developed and deployed critical technology focused on solving the very real challenges presented by the pandemic,” said Lean Rocket Lab CEO Brandon Marken. “We’ve seen tremendous density of technology that supports operational resiliency in manufacturing. These types of technologies are critical to keeping factories open and people working. Connected worker platforms, computer vision and AI-based inspection, on-demand manufacturing, and much more. We want to continue to support these entrepreneurs with critical access to our manufacturing community, expertise, our investor network and virtual programming.”

Added Dan Radomski, executive director of Lawrence Technological University’s Centrepolis Accelerator: “The ManuTech Virtual Incubator programming has been a critical component of the Michigan entrepreneurial ecosystem and we have been thrilled to be Lean Rocket Lab’s regional partner for the last few years. This SPRINT project deepens our relationship and allows us to deploy our deep bench of technical talent and engineering resources to high-growth startups and entrepreneurs as they integrate commercialize and deploy their technology.”

According to Radomski, LTU Centrepolis Accelerator has specific expertise in helping startups in de-risk through Manufacturing, Technology and Commercial Readiness Level coaching.

“The SPRINT Challenge builds on EDA’s efforts to work with communities to build strong regional economies,” said Dennis Alvord, Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “Our grantees’ projects are laser-focused on using innovation to help America overcome the economic, health, and safety challenges brought on by the pandemic.”

About Lean Rocket Lab

The Lean Rocket Lab removes common barriers to innovation by providing a collaborative workspace full of high energy entrepreneurs, advanced educational programming, and helpful resources so businesses and products can launch and thrive. Strategically located in one of the most diverse manufacturing economies and backed by access to experts, capital, prototyping, engineering, marketing, and technology resources, the Lean Rocket Lab is the place where entrepreneurs on the I-94 corridor come to get things built. For more information, visit

About Lawrence Technological University’s Centrepolis Accelerator

The Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University is accelerating the growth of

Michigan’s advanced manufacturing, innovative hardware entrepreneurs and small manufacturers by providing access to funding, experts and key business and product development resources. Visit

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