First Flight Venture Center (FFVC) announced today that its LiftOff Program was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Wege Foundation.  Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Foundation focuses on giving grants to organizations that enhance the lives of people and preserve the health of the environment. 

“We are extremely honored to receive this grant from the Wege Foundation for our LiftOff Program.  This award demonstrates confidence in our ability to manage this unique, non-dilutive funding program for science-based start-ups but also validates the need for this type of program for our clients in the community,” exclaimed FFVC CEO Andrew Schwab.

LiftOff is an innovative program created by FFVC –  the original Research Triangle Park technology incubator – to help North Carolina’s scientific entrepreneurs get early funding for their technology start-ups.   In-house executives and grant experts guide these start-ups through grant applications so they can earn funding and keep working prior to seeking venture capital. 

Funding of companies in the science and technology areas directly translates into economic growth in North Carolina, accelerating the expansion of high-science industries in the region and making North Carolina companies more attractive to external investors.

Five FFVC companies were selected to participate in the LiftOff pilot program in January 2016 – Camras Vision, SciKon, Treadwell Corporation, Trio Labs and Dignify Therapeutics.  The results of their initial efforts will be known this summer.  Four additional companies will be selected to start the program this summer.   

The Wege Foundation, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, awards grants to organizations that fall within five major categories – education, environment, arts and culture, healthcare and human services.  When the Foundation’s Board reviews grant requests within these areas, they also factor in the “Six E’s” – education, environment, ethics, empathy, ecology and economy.  The Foundation was started by Peter M. Wege whose father, Peter Martin Wege, started the company that became Steelcase, the world’s largest producer of office furniture.   


First Flight Venture Center is the original and largest RTP technology incubator which averages 37 tenants on an annual basis.  FFVC, originally spun out of the NC Department of Commerce in 1991, was established as a nonprofit to serve the initial needs of entrepreneurs and early stage companies. Today, First Flight is one of the nation’s largest and most stable incubators and has played host to more than 276 companies since its inception. Some of the most recognizable companies that started at FFVC include United Therapeutics, SciQuest, Bloodhound, Ganymede Software and ExamDesign, Inc.