Spurring Innovation Across Every Community in America


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Julie Lenzer, Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, leads discussion with entrepreneurs at the Department of Commerce

At the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), one of our top priorities is advancing the President’s commitment to providing talented entrepreneurs in underserved communities with the opportunity to put their dreams into action. Entrepreneurship and innovation are essential drivers of our nation’s economic prosperity.

A key supporter of innovation is the Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program. EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) leads the RIS Program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation through two unique grant opportunities – the i6 Challenge and the Seed Fund Support Grants.

The i6 Challenge is a national competition based on the most impactful national models for startup creation, innovation, and commercialization. The Seed Fund Support Grants provide funding for technical assistance to support feasibility, planning, formation, or launch of equity-based seed capital funds that are offered to innovation-based, growth-oriented start-up companies.

The RIS Program has seen major success in its short infancy. For example, in 2015, the New Orleans BioInnovation Center (NOBIC) was awarded a $500,000 i6 Challenge grant to support increased commercialization in the region’s growing life science cluster and provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs in the Greater New Orleans and across the state. NOBIC has scaled its assistance to entrepreneurs by engaging a greater number of businesses, providing workshops, networking, and resources to entrepreneurs, and developing a mentorship network to provide additional leadership to rising startups.

Over the past year, NOBIC has assisted 42 companies supporting 34 full-time positions, which have raised a total of over $15.2 million in capital, including over $2.6 million in SBIR and STTR grants and have 63 new patents pending. To date, EDA has supported more than 100 regional innovation initiatives like NOBIC across the U.S., funding a variety of clusters and programs in every region.

EDA recently released its Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) for the 2016 round of RIS Program funding. The application period is currently open and will close on June 24, 2016.  Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to register for and attend a post-launch webinar on May 5, 2016, at 2:00pm EST. During this webinar, EDA staff will present a detailed overview of the 2016 RIS FFO and will take questions from participants.

Looking to the future, EDA looks forward to continuing initiatives like RIS as part of ongoing efforts to modernize the way economic development is done in the 21st century and beyond.

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Last updated: 2017-01-24 15:37

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