Innovation Hub program caters to women


Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 1:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 1:47 p.m.

For Peggy Evanich, a program designed to get more female leadership in male-dominated tech businesses came right on time for her to start a company developing small satellites.

Evanich was among more than 50 women to participate in last year's Empowering Women in Technology Startups, sponsored by the University of Florida Office of Technology Licensing, UF TechConnect and the Florida Innovation Hub.

The free, nine-week eWITS program starts again in September. An information session will be held from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday at the Hub, 747 SW 2nd Ave.

Teams build business plans around real UF inventions.

This year, the program received a $10,000 grant from the Al & Nancy Burnett Charitable Foundation and has received interest from the National Academy of Science and the National Science Foundation.

Jane Muir, director of the Hub, helped start the program. She said women are underrepresented in tech business leadership because they are lacking self-confidence, mentors and a network of people to help, and because they often carry more family responsibilities.

Evanich said the program teaches women how to overcome those challenges while starting a business from the ground up.

"Women across the board are not used to playing with the big boys, and this class gives women the tools they need to just go and do that," she said.

After 27 years with NASA and 11 years in space research at UF, she said her employment came to an end at UF, giving her the opportunity to start a business she had been thinking about for 10 to 15 years. She started Small Satellite Innovations early this year and was accepted into the Innovation Hub.

The eWITS program is open to any women, but Muir said organizers are hoping to get a lot of postdoctoral and graduate students who work in the research labs who are coming up with the technologies UF is trying to commercialize.

Muir said the ultimate goal is to commercialize more UF inventions, which works best when researchers are paired with experienced entrepreneurs.

To apply for the program or register for the informational session, visit ewits.org.

Anthony Clark is the Gainesville Sun business editor.

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