Here’s the latest on grant-winning university teams supported by Banorte, led by its chairman, Carlos Hank González, Fundación Gruma and the U.S. Department of State as part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund.

The fund encourages higher education institutions to adopt new models of academic exchange and workforce development programs throughout the Americas. These cross-cultural research teams are seeking to broaden technical skills, solve real-world problems and stimulate economic prosperity.

Partners: Polk State College in Winter Haven, Fla., and Instituto Tecnológico de Mérida (ITM) in Mérida, Mexico.

Project: Teaching students how to construct business plans to expand the footprint of local businesses on a global scale.

What’s new: Students have created a business plan for local businesses to help expand their services or products into the other country. Students researched markets, logistics, taxes and other issues to construct a global business plan. The overall course content has included language and cultural appreciation elements to develop relationships locally and abroad.

To advance their work, the students in Orlando met with Mexico’s consul general, his deputy and assistant in charge of business development. That meeting opened the door for continued dialogue which could yield benefits in social and economic areas for both Mexico and the U.S.

Their mission: To open a trade route from the Yucatan Peninsula in North America directly to Central Florida via Port Tampa Bay. If successful, this will benefit communities in Central Florida and Mexico.

Students have received strong support from the Central Florida Development Council and secured commitments from Port Tampa Bay, Porto Progresso in Mexico and the respective consulates in both countries. Students will further their projects by participating in fieldwork in the form of meeting with businesses, logistics companies, lawyers, government agencies and others to gather vital information needed for their business plans.

“The funds from the grant will allow Polk State College to continue developing our international programs through collaboration with local businesses that benefit both students and the community,” said Herb Nold, professor of business administration at Polk State College. “We have the opportunity to meet with business leaders, understand their business model and then do the heavy lifting needed to develop a business plan with the help of our experienced professors,” he said.

Since receiving the grant, Polk State College has cemented relations with counterparts at ITM and begun building out an extensive curriculum for both groups in anticipation of site visits, solidifying businessplans for each student’s project and advancing their Spanish or English language skills and cultural awareness.

What’s next: The in-country fieldwork will consist of meetings with companies representing potential business partners and with stakeholders needed for a transaction, such as accountants, attorneys and logistics companies.

For more: Since its inception in 2014 through the end of 2020, the Innovation Fund has awarded 243 grants ($25,000 to $35,000 each) to more than 490 universities and institutions, working in teams in 25 countries and in 49 U.S. states. See 100kstrongamericas.org.