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.
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 (EDA) Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. These grants, along with other efforts at the Department of Commerce and throughout the Administration, will continue to make investments in American ingenuity and innovation.
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. The grantees  - 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 i6 Challenge is another way that the Commerce Department is helping support an American economy built to last.