By Edward Cardenas

TROY (CBS Detroit) – Automation Alley launched a new program Monday aimed at accelerating the growth of small businesses and startups across Southeast Michigan.

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The Automation Alley 7Cs program – which has an emphasis on advanced manufacturing startups in the idea stage or later – guides entrepreneurs through a customized seven-step process that starts with the conception of their technology and leads to commercialization, the technology business association stated.

“The Automation Alley 7Cs program is the first of its kind in Michigan. We believe it’s going to be transformational in terms of its impact on the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Southeast Michigan,” said Tom Kelly, Automation Alley director of entrepreneurship, in a release. “We saw a need in the ecosystem for an entrepreneurship program specifically focused on advanced manufacturing technology. The power of the 7Cs program is that you don’t have to navigate the ocean of potential customers yourself. We are with you, actively developing strategic matches to customers and partners and delivering tangible, measurable value every step of the way.”

The program, which is funded by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, includes intense coaching and a commitment from Automation Alley to invest resources and capital along with helping participants gain their first customers.

Additionally, the 7Cs First Look is a collection of two-minute sales videos that promote each 7Cs client company and showcase their products and services. With 7Cs First Match, Automation Alley has partnered with more than 20 local chief innovation officers at major automotive and manufacturing suppliers to present technologies developed by 7Cs participants.

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To provide these opportunities and resources to participants in the 7Cs program, Automation Alley has partnered with local vendors including Sandler Sales Training, icub, Brooks Kushman, Doeren Mayhew and P3.

The program includes a $25,000 directed investment from Automation Alley in each company accepted into the program which is used to cover the costs of the program. Companies accepted into the program are required to repay the $25,000 at the end of two years, which will make funding available for investment in additional companies.

There is also an opportunity for each of the accepted companies to receive up to an additional $100,000 in investment from the Automation Alley Pre-Seed Fund after they complete the program.

Three companies are currently enrolled in the Automation Alley 7Cs pilot program, including IMX Cosmetics, Lighthouse Molding and Civionics. Automation Alley plans to accept 10 companies into the program in 2015 and additional companies in the years to come. Companies complete the program at their own pace but are expected to accelerate to commercialization within 12-24 months.

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For more information on the program, or to apply, contact Automation Alley at 800-427-5100 or