Program History

In early 2004, four departments at UMBC – the Office of Technology Development (OTD), the bwtech@UMBC Incubator & Accelerator (bwtech), the Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship (ABCE), and the Center for Women and Information Technology (CWIT) – collaborated in the conception of the ACTiVATE® program.   OTD was motivated by the program’s capability to commercialize intellectual property in its portfolio; bwtech wanted to support the creation of new companies that could apply to its incubator program; ABCE was interested in developing new entrepreneurship training programs, and CWIT was interested in supporting women in technology entrepreneurship. 

The group drafted and submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Partnerships for Innovation Program to support the creation of the program.  UMBC was one of 17 projects selected for an award out of 271 proposals that were received by the NSF. UMBC received almost $600,000 over a three-year period to launch the program (NSF Award - EEC-0438617). Additional support was obtained from the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) and from a variety of corporate sponsors.

The inaugural ACTiVATE® class started in February 2005 with 28 participants.

After five successful years of running the program at UMBC, one of the program’s instructors, Julie Lenzer Kirk, who had been an instructor/advisor in the program since the first year, and Renee Lewis, another ACTiVATE® instructor, saw the potential to expand the program nationally and internationally. Together, they formed a new, not-for-profit company, the Path Forward Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (PFCIE), and obtained a license from UMBC for the ACTiVATE® program’s intellectual property.

In October, 2009, the first spin-out ACTiVATE® program, ACTiVATE® at Texas State, was launched in Austin, Texas with 26 participants.

On December 31, 2008, UMBC, in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, submitted a second proposal to the NSF’s Partnerships for Innovation program to create the INNoVATE™ program. In August, 2009, this proposal was also funded (NSF Award - IIP-0917985). The Innovate™ program is based on the ACTiVATE® model but designed for postdoctoral fellows/scientists and business people that want to work with them.  This program is open to both men and women.

The first INNoVATE™ class started in March 2010 with 25 participants.