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Obama Administration Announces Winners of i6 Challenge Competition to Promote Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Job Creation

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

$7 Million Investment Supports Projects Spurring Technology Commercialization and Small Business Development in Seven States 

The Obama Administration today announced the winners of the third round of the i6 Challenge, a national competition to advance American innovation, foster entrepreneurship, increase the commercialization of ideas into viable companies, and create jobs. The initiative seeks to accelerate innovative product development, spur the formation of start-ups, and create small businesses by supporting Proof of Concept Centers at universities and research consortiums across the country, which are helping to jumpstart the production of emerging technologies and revolutionize manufacturing processes.

The winning projects - based in California, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wisconsin - will each receive up to $1 million to fund Proof of Concept Centers at universities and research consortiums that will create networks of experts to support innovators and researchers, expand access to capital, and connect mentors and advisors to entrepreneurs and small businesses.

“The grants being announced today are an example of the Obama administration’s commitment to driving U.S. innovation and competitiveness in the decade ahead,” said Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank. “The Department of Commerce’s i6 Challenge is designed to encourage Americans who want to take risks with game-changing ideas, speed their innovations to marketplace, and thereby empower the next generation of job creators that are so essential for an economy that is built to last.”

Proof of Concept Centers incorporate a range of services, such as technology and market evaluation as well as business planning, that are critical to regional economic growth and job creation. The seven winners announced today will spur sustainable startups, small businesses, and new ventures. Launched in 2010 as a component of the White House’s Startup America initiative, the i6 Challenge is led by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The office leads efforts to promote innovation-based, high-growth entrepreneurship, develops policy recommendations, and implements initiatives to commercialize technology developed through university and federally-funded research.

Applications for the competition were evaluated by selection committees made up of industry and public sector leaders, and academics. Additionally, EDA’s regional offices conducted technical, merit, and investment reviews based on the agency’s funding criteria. A panel of experts, in partnership with the National Science Foundation, made recommendations for finalists. This year’s winners are:

  • Las Cruces, NM - The Arrowhead Center will build upon Launch, New Mexico State University’s recently established proof of concept center, to develop the Arrowhead Innovation Network. 
  • Tampa, FL - The FirstWaVE Venture Center will serve the eight-county Tampa Bay region with a five-year goal of helping at least 50 Florida-based start-up companies secure $500,000 in early-stage/angel funding in order to help them grow into viable tech companies.
  • Crane, IN - Southern Indiana Development Commission and the Battery Innovation Center Inc. will establish an Energy Storage Proof of Concept Center.
  • Madison, WI - The Wisconsin Innovates for Success Proof of Concept Center will commercialize the research being conducted at the University of Wisconsin – Madison’s Center for Dairy Research.
  • Kansas City, MO - The Digital Sandbox Proof of Concept Center will create a new process for commercialization in Kansas City by clustering digital innovation in a central hub and providing the needed technology infrastructure.
  • Charlottesville, VA - The Virginia Innovation Project - a partnership between the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and SRI International - will lead proof of concept projects throughout the state of Virginia.
  • Davis, CA - The University of California, Davis and the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance (SARTA) will partner to create a Proof of Concept Center to catalyze the commercialization of sustainable agriculture technologies in the six-county Sacramento region. 

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.