What do you get when you take a $15 million Regional Innovation Strategies program and add 254 applicants requesting more than $100 million in support? You get a very busy Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and compelling evidence that this program is crucial.
The Regional Innovation Strategies program was launched in September 2014 to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this program, EDA solicited applications for three separate funding opportunities, including: the i6 Challenge, Science and Research Park Development grants, and cluster grants to support the development of Seed Capital Funds:
- i6 Challenge: The i6 Challenge, now in its forth iteration, is focused on accelerating the commercialization of technology. The 2014 i6 was broadened from the three previous challenges to include scaling of existing centers or programs and funding for later-stage Commercialization Centers.
- Science/Research Parks: This new program provides funding for feasibility and planning of new or expanded Science/Research parks or renovation of existing facilities.
- Cluster Grants for Seed Funds: Also new this year, this program provides funding for technical assistance to support feasibility, planning, formation, or launch of cluster-based seed capital funds that invest in growth-oriented, innovation-based start-up companies. Ultimately, the goal is to foster job creation.
EDA is committed to helping foster connected, innovation-centric economic sectors which support commercialization and entrepreneurship. Working with regions across the country to develop regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters, is also one of the Commerce Department’s strategic goals, and a keystone of the Secretary’s commitment to building globally competitive regions.
This effort is also in line with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda” priority to strengthen operational excellence: providing better services, solutions, and outcomes to better serve the American people. The overwhelming response by the application’s closing date on November 3 demonstrates that communities recognize the benefits of a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and could benefit from the kind of support offered by the Regional Innovation Strategies program.
Today, the recently appointed National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) is meeting for the first time to begin its work advising the Secretary on issues related to accelerating innovation, expanding entrepreneurship, and developing a globally competitive workforce. With support of innovation in such high demand, this is the perfect time for NACIE to undertake its important role.
The winners of the Regional Innovation Strategies program will be announced in early 2015. We look forward to working with the winners, and all of the applicants, to continue fostering innovation in every sector of the American economy. The overwhelming response to this program highlights an incredible opportunity. With more available funding, what additional outcomes could we help drive? The potential to assist even more communities leverage innovation and entrepreneurship as engines of economic growth is out there and the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is ready to facilitate.