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Blog Category: i6 Challenge

Innovation Support is in Demand

Julie Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

By Julie Kirk, Director, Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

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. 

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces $15 Million Grant Competition to Spur Regional Innovation

U.S. Department of Commerce Announces $15 Million Grant Competition to Spur Regional Innovation

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today announced the launch of the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $15 million 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this program, EDA is soliciting 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.

“President Obama and I are committed to strengthening American innovation, which is crucial for sustained economic growth and competitiveness,” said Secretary Pritzker. “The EDA Regional Innovation Strategies Program announced today, which builds on the highly successful i6 Challenge, will help spur innovation through the development and strengthening of regional innovation clusters. Innovation clusters strengthen communities by creating good jobs and growing regional economies nationwide.”

“EDA helps foster connected, innovation-centric economic sectors to support commercialization and entrepreneurship, including through regional innovation clusters,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams. “EDA’s new funding opportunity will provide more communities and regions with the resources they need to help local businesses start and grow. Specifically, EDA will help regions across the country develop regional innovation strategies, including proof of concept and commercialization centers, feasibility studies for the creation and expansion of science and research parks, and opportunities to close the funding gap for early-stage companies. This new funding opportunity is also an important component of the Administration’s commitment to build globally competitive regions.”.

The 2014 Regional Innovation Strategies Program originally started as the Regional Innovation Program under the reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act of 2010. This year’s program includes $15 million in funding for the following programs:

  • i6 Challenge ($8M): Launched in 2010 as part of the Startup America Initiative, the i6 Challengeis a national competition based on the most impactful national models for startup creation, innovation, and commercialization. The 2014 i6 has been broadened to include growing or expanding existing centers or programs and considering funding for later-stage Commercialization Centers, which provide opportunities for fine tuning and refinement of innovations. Special consideration will be given to programs which include initiatives focusing on innovative manufacturing and exports. 

Secretary Pritzker Tours Global Center for Medical Innovation in Atlanta, Georgia

Secretary Pritzker views a prototyping machine at the Global Center for Medical Innovation

Today, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker visited the Global Center for Medical Innovation (GCMI) in Atlanta, Ga. GCMI is an independent, non-profit organization that works with universities, research centers, and investors to help accelerate the commercialization of innovative medical technology.

GCMI, which opened in 2010, houses facilities that local entrepreneurs can use to design, engineer, and build their products, and provides access to a growing network of experts that can help bring cutting edge ideas to market. The secretary toured the facility with GCMI executives and CEOs from two of the four startup businesses that reside at GCMI.

During her tour, Secretary Pritzker learned about some of the daily on-site activities at GCMI, including medical device design engineering and prototyping, and explored the organization’s design lab. She also learned about the center’s rapid prototype machine, which is a 3D printer that enables innovators, and entrepreneurs to bring their ideas from concept to reality in a matter of hours. Typically, prototypes take days or weeks to manufacture. GCMI is able to support a relationship between Georgia Tech and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to develop and commercialize new medical devices for the pediatric market. They are also helping an Atlanta-based entrepreneur and an inventor from Georgia Tech develop a functional prototype to help quadriplegics GAIN greater mobility.

Secretary Pritzker also met with some of the students who are part of GCMI’s apprentice program. This program provides opportunities to students and recent graduates from leading engineering and medical schools around the country who participate in a range of development activities that help bring new medical technology from the lab to the clinic.

Acting Secretary Blank Announces Grants to Establish Proof of Concept Centers for Emerging Technologies

$7 million invested in seven communities to help entrepreneurs out-innovate the world and create American jobs.

Today, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank visited the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. today, where she 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.

In her remarks, Blank noted that job creation remains the Administration’s top priority, noting a number of economic studies suggesting that innovative new products and processes account for about two-thirds of U.S. economic growth since World War II. Innovation also drives increases in productivity and rising incomes. The Proof of Concept Centers funded by the i6 Challenge grants support innovation by providing the tools and the support entrepreneurs and researchers need to take new products to market, launch businesses, and to create jobs. 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.

Acting Secretary Blank Highlights Competitions As a Tool For Improving American Competitiveness

This morning, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank spoke before the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The competition is part of the Obama administration's Startup America Initiative, the White House campaign to inspire and promote entrepreneurship. Launched in December 2011, the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition included six regional competitions that served as platforms for college students to present business plans that transform great clean energy ideas into great businesses. The goal of building regional networks of student-focused businesses, as well as its inclusion of corporate leaders in the clean energy and venture capital sectors, builds squarely on existing partnerships with the Department of Commerce to spur domestic innovation and entrepreneurship.

Blank told the audience, which included the six regional winning teams, that the key to America’s success is innovation. . . new products, new processes, new ways of thinking.  Since the 1940s, over two-thirds of America’s economic growth has been directly related to increased productivity due to innovationthat’s both new products and new production processes.

$6 Million i6 Challenge to Spur High Growth Entrepreneurship and Expand Proof of Concept Centers

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Guest blog post by Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine

The Obama administration has unveiled several actions that are designed to speed up the growth of new, job-creating companies. Today, a new $6 million i6 Challenge, the third round of the national innovation competition, was announced. Six winning teams from around the country will get awards of up to $1 million this fall for innovative proposals to create and expand Proof of Concept Centers, such as the Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Stevens Institute for Innovation at the University of Southern California.

Centers like these incorporate a range of services—such as technology and market evaluation, business planning and mentorship, and early-stage access to capital—that are critical to regional economic growth and job creation.

The i6 competition series has generated great momentum since it was first introduced as part of the roll-out of the White House’s Startup America initiative last year. Projects funded in 2010 and 2011 are already starting to show results.

Commerce’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Invests in the Jobs and Industries of the Future

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Guest blog by Matt Erskine, Acting Assistant Secretary for Economic Development

To mark the one-year anniversary of the White House Startup America Initiative, in January President Obama sent Congress a proposal to expand tax relief and unlock capital for startups and small businesses that are creating jobs.

When he launched the initiative a year ago, the president sought to promote the success of entrepreneurs across the country. The private sector responded with the Startup America Partnership, launching new entrepreneurial networks all across the country. AOL co-founder and member of the President’s Jobs Council, Steve Case, and the Kauffman Foundation joined to form the Startup America Partnership, which is a nonprofit alliance of entrepreneurs, major corporations and service providers that has mobilized more than $1 billion in business resources to serve as many as 100,000 startups over the next three years.

This year, the administration unveiled several new agency actions to accelerate the growth of young, job-creating companies, at the same time that new entrepreneur-led regional coalitions are launching throughout the nation.

One of those efforts will fuel regional innovation. In the coming months, the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), along with several Federal partners, will launch the third round of the i6 Challenge, a multiagency competition which funds regional collaborations to bring innovative, ground-breaking ideas from the lab to the marketplace, creating new startups and jobs across the country. Commerce is also launching a new initiative to connect entrepreneurs with the resources made available through the Startup America Partnership and its partners.

Federal Investments Catalyzing the Growth of the Critical, Job-Creating St. Louis Biosciences Cluster

Guest blog by Matthew S. Erskine, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Today, I was pleased to join St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and colleagues from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOL/ETA) at an event to spotlight federal investments that are catalyzing the growth of the critical, job-creating St. Louis biosciences cluster.

The day was focused on the partnership between the St. Louis County Economic Council, the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment, and the St. Louis Minority Supplier Development Council to establish the St. Louis Biosciences Jobs and Innovation Accelerator project.

With more than $1.8 million in federal investment, including $702,765 from EDA, $973,015 from SBA, and $150,000 from the DOL/ETA, this project will work to accelerate the growth of the region’s biosciences cluster and spur the formation of new companies and associated job creation.

EDA’s funding for the project will bring early-stage technologies into the commercialization pipeline by addressing identified gaps and challenges, including access to a skilled workforce of experienced entrepreneurs that are needed to enable companies to grow.

Congressional Staff Hears from i6 Challenge Winners

Hill staff listen to one of the i6 winners

Commerce Department grantees provide updates on projects to promote innovation and commercialization in regions of Ore., Ohio, Pa., Fla. and Ga.

To highlight the economic impact of Obama administration investments to promote American Innovation and accelerate the commercialization of research to the marketplace, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) hosted the first 21st Century Economic Capitol Hill Briefing on the new COMPETES law on January 19, 2012.

Awardees of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (OIE) i6 Challenge came to Washington D.C. to brief Congress on how federal funds are promoting regional economic and job growth. OIE, which was authorized under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, supports efforts to foster innovation ecosystems and the commercialization of new technologies, products, processes, and services.

Close to 60 Congressional staffers gathered at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, D.C., to hear first-hand from four i6 Challenge awardees: David Kenney and Dr. Patricia Beckman of the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center of Portland, Oregon; Dr. Thomas O’Neal and Wayne Hodges of the Global Center for Medical Innovation of Atlanta, Georgia; Dr. Art Boni of Carnegie Mellon University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Dr. Wayne Watkins of the University of Akron Research Foundation of Akron, Ohio.

EDA Investments and Programs Help Strengthen America’s Economic Ecosystem, Create Jobs

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Guest blog post by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John R. Fernandez

With the private sector creating more than three million new jobs over the last 21 months, and nine straight quarters of positive GDP growth, the U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery. But with millions of people across the nation still unemployed, there is nothing more important right now than working to accelerate business development and job growth.

In the 2011 fiscal year, Commerce's U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) continued its important work of investing in competitive projects across the country that are spurring innovation at the regional level, helping to create jobs, and mitigating the effects of natural and man-made disasters.