Regional Innovation Clusters are an important element of the President’s innovation agenda and a good example of how federal agencies can collaborate to maximize the impact of existing federal investments in key areas like energy and agriculture.
Regional Innovation Clusters are geographic concentrations of firms and industries that do business with each other and have common needs for talent, technology, and infrastructure. Clusters make full use of a region’s unique assets, from infrastructure to workforce to available capital, to increase collaboration and create a climate for businesses to grow and thrive. Innovation clusters build on existing industry and resources, foster creative environments that encourage knowledge sharing and tailored training and educational activities, and anchor jobs in America rather than shipping jobs overseas.
We know that this cluster strategy works. From well known places like Silicon Valley and the Research Triangle in North Carolina to lesser known places like Dayton’s Tech Town, Tucson’s Arizona Bioscience Park, and the Middle Georgia Economic Alliance, clusters are helping to connect communities to career and educational opportunities, secure higher paying jobs, and stabilize regions.
This week, the administration will announce the 40+ winners of three signature regional innovation initiatives:
- I6 Challenge: Administered by the Department of Commerce/Economic Development Administration, NSF and NIH – EDA will fund 6 winning grants up to $1,000,000 each for up to two years. NIH and NSF will award a total of up to $6 million to their SBIR grantees that are associated or partnered with the winning teams. The i6 Challenge rewards innovative ideas that accelerate technology commercialization and new venture formation across the U.S.
- Regional Cluster Initiative and Advanced Technology Initiative: The Small Business Administration–will announce 10 winners with a funding commitment of $600,000 per winner.
- Rural Business Opportunity Grants: The Department of Agriculture will announce 9 grants with a funding commitment of up to $250,000 per winner.
In addition to these three new initiatives, just last month, the Department of Energy announced that the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster is the winner of the $129 m Energy Regional Innovation Cluster Pilot – a project that will spur regional economic growth while making buildings more energy efficient.
Americans have an unparalleled capacity to come up with innovative and entrepreneurial solutions. Federal agency support for organically-led regional clustering efforts is an encouraging step towards restoring and enhancing our economy.