UA Research Foundation launches STRIDE Accelerator for hard technology companies


In 2018, the University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) started hearing about a challenge facing the entrepreneurs with whom it works. While Northeast Ohio had several strong accelerator programs for software companies, no comparable program existed for entrepreneurs developing high tech physical products, also known as “hard tech.”

“We were helping these entrepreneurs one-on-one, and we started hearing from them that they missed all of the things that come along with being in an accelerator program, like the structure of having meetings and deadlines, and the chance to work closely with other entrepreneurs that are at a similar stage,” UARF Project Manager Elyse Ball says. “This was surprising to us, because Northeast Ohio is so well-known for its expertise in things like polymers, sensors, medical devices and biomimicry.”

For the past six years, UARF has run Northeast Ohio’s I-Corps Site, a seven-week program aimed at advancing novice entrepreneurs through the first steps of customer discovery. The program helps entrepreneurs clarify who their customers are and what problems the new product or service can solve for those customers. After having run more than 200 teams of very early stage entrepreneurs through the I-Corps Site process, UARF was looking for ways to help these entrepreneurs maintain their momentum.

Pilot program focuses on best practices

This led to the creation of UARF’s new STRIDE Accelerator, which is launching as a pilot program this fall thanks to funding from Burton D. Morgan Foundation. The five-month program is tailored to help hard tech entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. Entrepreneurs from four companies will learn best practices in building a minimum viable product, branding and marketing, sales strategy, accounting and financial projections, and pitching for investment.

“We’ve seen how well entrepreneurs have responded to the cohort-based model of I-Corps” says UARF Program Manager Nick Glavan. “When startup founders are working alongside each other, they end up sharing resources and giving advice to one another from the experiences and struggles they’ve already overcome.” 

UARF’s goal is for the STRIDE Accelerator to become a recurring program that runs twice per year and helps up to 15 to 20 companies annually. Hard tech startups are plentiful in the Greater Akron region, because of innovative researchers at regional universities, including The University of Akron and Kent State University, as well as Akron’s Bounce Innovation Hub, which offers lab space and mentorship to entrepreneurs from across the region. UARF will recruit entrepreneurs from both university labs and the broader community to participate in the STRIDE Accelerator.

Expanding region’s innovation economy

The STRIDE Accelerator pilot is supported by Burton D. Morgan Foundation with matching funding from Ohio Third Frontier’s Entrepreneurial Services Provider Program, which is administered by JumpStart.

 “The STRIDE Accelerator fills an identified gap by providing comprehensive programming to hard tech entrepreneurs in Greater Akron, says Deborah Hoover, president and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation. “We are delighted to support the University of Akron Research Foundation in this endeavor, which will expand the region’s innovation economy and bolster Northeast Ohio’s burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Media contact: Alex Knisely, 330-972-6477 or