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Innovation Hubs OK Catalyst Programs Honored by U.S. Small Business Administration

OU Tom Love Innovation Hub’s OK Catalyst Programs, Executive Director Honored by U.S. Small Business Administration

January 14, 2021

The U.S. Small Business Administration is recognizing the Oklahoma Catalyst Programs (OK Catalyst), based at the University of Oklahoma’s Tom Love Innovation Hub (I-Hub), and Executive Director Tom Wavering with two prestigious 2020 Tibbetts Awards. OU is the first university in the nation to receive two Tibbetts Awards in the same year.

The Tibbetts Awards are presented annually to small businesses, organizations and individuals who exemplify the spirit and intent of the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs (SBIR/STTR), which encourage domestic small businesses to engage in federal research and research and development with the potential for commercialization. 

“The Oklahoma Catalyst Programs are an incredibly important contributor to the economic vitality of our state through their comprehensive support of entrepreneurs,” said Corey Phelps, dean of the Michael F. Price College of Business. “I am thrilled to see that Tom Wavering and his team have received the national recognition they deserve and I congratulate them for their accomplishment. It’s fitting that OK Catalyst Programs are headquartered at the Tom Love Innovation Hub at OU because they embody the spirit and drive of Tom Love, one of Oklahoma’s great business leaders.”

Wavering joined OU in 2016 as the I-Hub’s founding executive director, where he launched a series of initiatives to increase innovation and entrepreneurship and launch more startups across Oklahoma through a mix of resources, programs, services and collaborations.

As a national expert in the federal SBIR/STTR programs, Wavering created the I-Hub’s Oklahoma Catalyst Programs in 2018 through funding from Oklahoma Business Roundtable, Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology Small Business Research Assistance Program, Small Business Administration Federal and State Technology Partnership Program and Presbyterian Health Foundation (PHF). Wavering and the OK Catalyst team have had a transformative impact across Oklahoma, assisting 15 companies – which had not previously received SBIR/STTR funding – secure $15 million in funding ($10 million in SBIR/STTR funding and $5 million in private funding), creating 55 jobs and generating more than $200 million in potential economic impact. All 15 companies have been first-time SBIR/STTR awardees, three-quarters of which have been owned by women, veterans, minorities or socially/economically disadvantaged individuals.

“Tom Wavering and OK Catalyst have revolutionized the SBIR/STTR ecosystem in Oklahoma, and their impact is instrumental in stimulating economic growth and revitalizing communities through our state,” said Oklahoma’s Secretary of Commerce Sean Kouplen. “We are fortunate to have them in Oklahoma.”

OK Catalyst provides networking, training and mentorship to tech innovators in Oklahoma. The largest OK Catalyst networking event every year is the Oklahoma Women Impacting STEM & Entrepreneurship Conference (OK-WISE); and its main training program is the OK Catalyst Researchers program, a free eight-week course that teaches entrepreneurship and Lean Startup principles to university students, graduate students, researchers and faculty across Oklahoma.

Additionally, OK Catalyst supports Oklahoma startups and small businesses through every step of the SBIR/STTR proposal submission process, from incorporating their company to submitting their proposal, through their best-in-class SBIR Accelerator programs. OK Catalyst SBIR Accelerator participants have a 40% proposal win rate, nearly four times the national average, and 100% of the SBIR/STTR winners are first-time SBIR/STTR awardees. Once a company wins a Phase I SBIR, OK Catalyst provides additional mentoring and technical and business assistance to help the business secure additional SBIR/STTR funding through their SBIRx program.

“The Tom Love Innovation Hub’s OK Catalyst Programs are a critical part of our Oklahoma Innovation Model to become a top 10 state for technology and innovation,” said Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell. “Oklahoma is proud to have the OK Catalyst Programs recognized as one of the top SBIR/STTR support programs in the U.S., and we thank Tom, Daniel and the rest of the OK Catalyst team for their tremendous impact.”

Wavering and the OK Catalyst team – Director Daniel Moses, Sarah Hamby and Maya Nkouka – are supported by a team of OU undergraduate and graduate students who gain real-world experience in their fields of study. Throughout the program’s history, 100% of OK Catalyst’s student staff have secured jobs in their industry upon graduation.

OK Catalyst utilizes a strong and diverse network of statewide partners that include Oklahoma State University, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Oklahoma Small Business Development Center, Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, i2E, Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce, Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce, Tulsa Innovation Labs, Thunder Launchpad, Oklahoma Career Tech and many others. OK Catalyst staff in Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa offer programs across Oklahoma through close collaboration with these partner organizations. 

About the University of Oklahoma

Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit