Baton Rouge Health District to Launch $1.2 Million Regional Innovation Program with Federal Economic Development Administration Grant Award

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Released: Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Steven Ceulemans, Baton Rouge Health District Executive Director

BATON ROUGE, LA - The Baton Rouge Health District recently received its first federal grant award, funded by the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Venture Challenge - Build to Scale Program. This new award will establish a $1.2 million dollar regional healthcare technology innovation program (Health-Tech Catalyst) supported by nearly $600,000 in EDA grant funding and equal matching support provided by grant partners Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC), and the Baton Rouge Health District. 

“Our first federal grant is a major milestone for our organization and a testament to the quality and national competitiveness of our work,” said Steven Ceulemans, Executive Director of the Baton Rouge Health District. “The award provides important new resources to promote and implement our regional healthcare excellence agenda and it enhances the strong working relationship with our grant partners Pennington Biomedical Research Center and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.”

According to today’s national announcement, the EDA’s Build to Scale Program will support the efforts of 52 organizations in 36  states, which will receive grants totaling $35 million to support entrepreneurship, acceleration of company growth, and increased access to risk capital across regional economies.

“Grantees were selected from a competitive pool of more than 600 applications and represent exemplary innovation and entrepreneurship from rural and urban areas across America,” said Dana Gartzke, who is performing the delegated duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development.

The newly funded three-year Baton Rouge Health-Tech Catalyst initiative will establish three program tracks with unique resources and opportunities for healthcare organizations and innovators - all to the benefit of patients across the region:

  • A LAUNCHPAD to advance innovator-driven ideas to strengthen innovation networks and collaborations across the Health District, and promote the development of demo technologies that can bring new health solutions closer to real-life applications and patient benefits.
  • INNOVATION CHALLENGES in response to articulated innovation capacity building opportunities identified and shared across the Health District. A few examples of possible challenges that may be tackled include health information sharing between healthcare institutions to reduce duplication of care, increasing regional access to clinical trials and experimental therapies, and innovative patient mobility solutions to improve access to care. Challenge awards will fund collaborative initiatives and technology development efforts, resulting in shared resources that can benefit healthcare stakeholders and institutions across the region.
  • Collaborative and coordinated ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT initiatives to market regional healthcare excellence and capacity and increase industry investment, attract talent and promote future growth and vitality of the Baton Rouge Healthcare sector.

“This award represents an incredible opportunity to foster and further the innovations that will help us tackle the health challenges, such as the obesity epidemic, now ravaging our community, Louisiana, the United States, and the world.  We’re excited about partnering with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and the Baton Rouge Health District on this effort,” said Dr. John Kirwan, Executive Director of Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

As a next implementation step for the program, the Baton Rouge Health-Tech Catalyst will establish its steering and advisory committees, and start recruitment for two new dedicated staff members to support the program.

The steering committee will include the Baton Rouge Health District, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and Pennington Biomedical Research Center. The advisory committee will be represented by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Ochsner Health System, Pennington Biomedical Research Center and Woman’s Hospital. The first year of the program will include the start of inter-institutional innovation forum events and a first call for Launchpad and Innovation Challenge proposals, as well as the expansion of a number of economic development marketing and recruitment initiatives.

“The Baton Rouge Area has an incredible wealth of healthcare assets and the potential to grow into a hub of healthcare innovation,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC. “This funding award will rapidly advance efforts to leverage existing strengths and build a united, health-focused regional economic development engine. Our team is excited to partner on this initiative and support its goals through business development and recruitment, research, and media relations.”

About the EDA Venture Challenge

The EDA Venture Challenge funds regional initiatives that support entrepreneurship and accelerate company growth in addressing innovation system issues. In turn, they can strengthen economic competitiveness through new product innovation or new technology adoption, improve the commercialization of research, enhance the overall innovation capacity and resilience of a region, and/or leverage regional competitive strengths to stimulate innovation and job creation.

The Venture Challenge recently awarded $35 million across the most competitive proposals nationwide. The program is administered by EDA’s Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, as part of its commitment to furthering technology-based economic development initiatives that accelerate high quality job growth, create more economic opportunities, and support the future of the next generation of industry leading companies. More information is available at .

About the Baton Rouge Health District

The Baton Rouge Health District is a coalition of patient-focused, innovative healthcare organizations committed to the vision of a world-class, high performing health destination at the heart of a healthy and vibrant community. As a non-profit organization, the Health District promotes collaboration among healthcare providers, government officials, payors, higher education institutions and others to implement a master plan that will enhance healthcare and economic development in Baton Rouge. Founding members of the Baton Rouge Health District include Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Baton Rouge General Medical Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Ochsner Health Systems, Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University and Woman’s Hospital. More information is available at .


About LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center

LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. The center conducts basic, clinical and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 450 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians and other support personnel. Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.