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National Grid is providing almost half a million dollars to support startup business in upstate New York with its CleanTech Incubation grant program.

The company’s Global CEO Steve Holliday and New York State President Ken Daly came to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on Tuesday to award two grants totalling $490,000 to the University at Buffalo and Launch NY, which both are making efforts to grow businesses in the region.

“It is an investment,” Holliday said about the grants. “You expect a return. We’re not expecting a return back to National Grid; the return is about the economic growth and prosperity of Buffalo. That’s the return we’ll share in the benefit from.”

The grant program supports the development of a self-sustaining model of innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation. The company budgets about $11 million annually for economic development in its upstate New York service territory, according to Steve Brady, company spokesman.

National Grid, which is headquartered in London and provides gas and electricity services in 26 counties in upstate New York, is the first company to provide “direct support” and help launch UB’s new High-Tech Entrepreneurship Opportunity Program.

UB’s program will work closely with Launch NY’s Entrepreneur-in-Residence program. Both organizations support businesses as they’re developing and help them “avoid the valley of death,” speakers at Tuesday’s event said, referring to the critical, and often difficult, beginning stages of a new company.

UB’s program will help “the earliest of the early” businesses, ones that are still ideas, said Marnie LaVigne, UB’s associate vice president of economic development. The program had a “soft launch” a few weeks ago, and there are already dozens of startups “in the pipeline,” LaVigne said.

UB, which received $240,000, will offer up to $10,000 in support for promising early-stage companies that are bringing new technology, products or services to the market. The money will allow young companies to have access to services like market research, technology assessment and legal and accounting services.

The program will help those companies that are ready to advance and connect with Launch NY, which received $250,000. Launch NY offers startups mentoring and long-term advice from experienced professionals. In the past six months, Launch NY has reached out to more than 150 upstate companies to provide services, said John Seman, the nonprofit organization’s CEO.

One of the companies Launch NY works with belongs to Heidi Wagner, CEO and founder of MedPath Solutions. Her startup offers a software service that harnesses cancer-related data. The biggest challenge facing high-tech startups is accessing funding, according to Wagner, who currently works as a senior pathologist assistant at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

She said it’s “comforting to know” there programs established that are “reducing such challenges.”

UB’s program is seeking entrepreneurs or startups that are pre-revenue and are boasting a high-tech product or service in the life sciences, advanced manufacturing or clean technology.

email: sdinatale@buffnews.com