Six businesses with founders from underrepresented backgrounds will receive a $50,000 grant from UMSL’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Accelerator.

University of Missouri-St Louis (UMSL) has received 437 submissions for its diversity-focused accelerator, more than doubling its projection when it unveiled the programme last month, St Louis Business Journal has reported.

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Accelerator will initially supply a $50,000 grant to six early-stage businesses with founders from marginalised backgrounds.

DEI Accelerator is set to unveil its first cohort of six startups on December 3 after whittling down 16 finalists.

Founders will then undergo eight weeks of business development training designed to bolster their startup’s visibility and prepare pitches to investors.

One of the 16 finalists is furniture and fixtures installation service provider St Louis Assembly Pros, which hopes to use the $50,000 award to accelerate growth.

DEI Accelerator joins existing diversity initiatives in the St Louis region aimed at closing the equity funding gap facing founders from minority backgrounds.

These include St Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective, a scheme intended to produce structural changes that level the playing field.

Monique Bynum, the managing director of DEI Accelerator, said the high number in applications showed that “there is an unmet need.”