There is a long list of American ideas and inventions that have changed the world, from the telephone to the television. The Economic Development Agency (EDA) is dedicated to making sure the U.S remains a matrix for cutting-edge enterprise. The EDA is the only agency in the federal government whose exclusive focus is economic development, particularly for distressed areas. Part of the Department of Commerce, it promotes innovation and regional collaboration to enhance the health of local economies. Not all funded projects have to be as revolutionary as the light bulb, the point is to support viable new companies that create jobs. The EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies Program (RIS) is accepting applications for two separate competitions for capacity building:
- The i6 Challenge supports the creation of centers for innovation and entrepreneurship so that great ideas can be turned into commercial successes. Up to $2.5 million of the $8 million award will be set aside for projects that serve rural areas.
- The Seed Fund Support Grants are cluster grants for organizations that provide funding for innovation based startups in exchange for equity. Job creation and outreach to populations underrepresented in innovation and entrepreneurship must be considerations in issuing capital.
Since research and measuring effectiveness are important components of both these grants, it is not surprising that many past recipients were universities that created programs to benefit fledgling enterprises and industries in their regions. However, local governments and organizations aligned with them can also be counted among previous winners:
- The Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation in Ohio set up a Pre-Seed Venture Capital Fund to support new tech businesses in an area still recovering for the collapse of the steel industry.
- The City and County of San Francisco's Startup-in-Residence Program brings together thought leaders at the local, regional and international level for a new model of civic engagement and economic collaboration.
- The Greater Phoenix Economic Council created a seed fund feasibility study to be proactive and make sure their robust high-tech manufacturing sector is supplemented with new products and companies to keep an edge in an ever changing market.
- The Wisconsin Water Cluster Seed Capital Fund Grant will help small water companies in Milwaukee transform themselves from brewery suppliers to water technology leaders who can help solve global water issues.
The deadline to apply for the Regional Innovation Strategies Program is June 24, 2016. State, local, and Native American Tribal governments are eligible to apply. Institutions of higher education, public-private partnerships, science or research parks, federal laboratories and non-profits are also eligible if their application is supported by a state or local government. It is highly recommended that all potential applicants attend the post-launch webinar on May 5, 2016, 2 PM EST. This webinar will be made available online for those who cannot attend, but those who go to the live session can participate in a question and answer session.