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Group promoting innovation expands; Bright aims to build high-tech economy

A group of more than 15 organizations has rebranded and expanded its efforts to link entrepreneurs and investors to bolster a high-tech economy across the region.

The organization, which has held the Explore Buffalo Niagara Investor and Entrepreneur High-Tech Forum the past two years, will now be known as Bright Buffalo Niagara. The group, led by the University at Buffalo New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, specializes in finding investors to bring entrepreneurial ideas in energy, Internet technology and advanced manufacturing to fruition.

Among changes to Bright is an effort to continue expanding its reach beyond Western New York. Bright will now incorporate Southern Ontario in its network and continue its efforts to include Pennsylvania that began last year. The goal is to strengthen the entire region and increase investment opportunities for local entrepreneurs.

"The [Pennsylvania] connection has been extremely worthwhile," said committee member Renata Bator, who describes Bright as being more community-driven than before.

In addition to a forum June 9, Bright will hold two workshops May 4 as part of an effort to focus more specifically on the interests of both entrepreneurs and investors. The first will offer advice for current investors from experts in early- and later-stage investing. The second will educate entrepreneurs on the market's impact on investors and the attributes they look for in companies. Information is available from Bator at 881-7588 or by e-mail at rmbator@buffalo.edu.

This year's forum will now be called the Bright Forum. As it has previously, it will allow entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their ideas to potential investors. Applications from companies and entrepreneurs will be accepted through April 1.

Bator said the organization's mission has expanded. "The programming delves deeper into what our audience is interested in. We want to establish relationships and the community channels to further networks," she said.

Bright also plans to use funds from a $445,000 federal grant to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to implement a model called JumpStart, which began in Cleveland and partly inspired President Obama's new program, Startup America. The program joins businesses, nonprofits and the government to aid startups that show promise.

e-mail: vsherry@buffnews.com

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