Located in Central Phoenix, the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation (CEI) at GateWay Community College is a full-service business incubator that houses a vibrant community of bioscience, medical device, and high tech entrepreneurs who are working on industry-changing technologies. Since 2012, CEI has spurred economic growth in the greater Phoenix area. With 34 graduates and 20 current clients, the Center is focused on helping startups build sustainable businesses in Arizona. In six years, clients have created 567 jobs, generated $154.5 million in sales revenue and raised over $83.4 million in private equity capital, grant funding, and awards.
Tom Schumann, Executive Director
Perspective on Innovation
The Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation (CEI) was created on the GateWay Community College Campus to address two problems that were holding Phoenix back. First, there were no affordable commercial lab spaces for scientists and engineers to complete their research and develop new products in Central Arizona. Second, the region lacked high-quality, well-paying jobs.
Leaders at the Maricopa County Community College District saw a connection between these two deficiencies and knew that developing a business incubator tailored to biotech and life science startups could lead to the job growth needed in our state. With support from the City of Phoenix and a grant from the Economic Development Administration, CEI was built to provide space for entrepreneurs to launch their startup.
After opening, it became clear that many innovators in our community wanted to save lives and had the technology to back it up, but they lacked the business acumen to commercialize their products. Fortunately, many of them have been willing to take on the challenge of starting a business, often with no prior experience doing so. That’s why CEI specializes in supporting entrepreneurs as they enter competitive markets for the first time. We strive to give our clients the skills necessary to make the leap from researcher to CEO, so they’re ready to lead scalable companies upon graduation.
CEI’s incubation program is rooted in long-term, integrated business counseling. When new clients join us, they get far more than an office or lab; they become a part of the CEI family. That means working down the hall from other entrepreneurs who want to lend a hand. That means access to industry experts who can provide clarity in a sea of overwhelm. And most of all, that means gaining our team of on-staff advisors who are ready to pull them through a crisis or cheer them onto victory at a moment’s notice.
We ask our clients the difficult questions, help them anticipate future roadblocks, coach them toward their next big milestone, and remind them to get some rest when stress is high. Everything we do is in service to our clients because we believe they have the potential to make an impact in Arizona and beyond.
Over the last six years, we’ve learned that innovation takes time, and it’s tough to build a successful company alone. CEI is a place for founders to learn, grow, and refine their ideas without ever losing sight of the big picture: to get their life-saving products to market. Not only do we help them commercialize and scale, we offer a community that fosters their passion for entrepreneurship so that they can weather the ups and downs of launching a business. Ultimately, we help our clients achieve their mission so we can achieve ours, which is to create meaningful jobs in our community.
Phoenix is more than just a supportive environment for entrepreneurs — it’s a nurturing one. Everyone, from our leaders in local government to our educators at community colleges, goes the extra mile to make sure Phoenix Area businesses of all shapes and sizes have the opportunity to succeed here.
The Future of Innovation
To achieve rapid innovation, we must build a critical mass of top-tier research and entrepreneurship in bioscience — both of which our local leaders have made significant commitments to. However, this momentum can only be sustained if Arizona’s workforce is prepared to fill the jobs that come with this industry. To make sure our community is ready, CEI will launch Arizona’s first workforce training and certification center for biotech and life science in the near future.
Advice & Best Practices
First, there are strong entrepreneurial communities all over the Phoenix Valley, so don’t be afraid to cross municipality lines to attend events and meet new people. Second, share what you know honestly and openly, because you’ll quickly realize that everyone here is willing to do the same for you.
Centre for Entrepreneurial Innovation