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U.S. Department of Commerce: Regional Innovation Strategies

Deadline: June 23, 2017

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is committed to fostering connected, innovation-centric economic sectors that support the conversion of research into products and services, businesses, and ultimately jobs through entrepreneurship. Funding is available for capacity-building programs that provide proof-of-concept and commercialization assistance to innovators and entrepreneurs and for operational support for organizations that provide essential early-stage funding to startups.

The Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program will support two unique grant opportunities:

1. The i6 Challenge: Funding is provided for the development, creation, or expansion of proof-of-concept and commercialization programs that accelerate innovation-led economic development in pursuit of a vibrant innovative economy and economic growth. These programs can be physical or virtual, existing or new. Proposed projects may aim for some or all of the following outputs and outcomes or others, as appropriate in light of each given proposed project’s regional, sectoral, and economic contexts:

  • Innovation: Projects should aim to foster cultures of innovation and to provide or connect the resources necessary to drive innovations from ideas to research and intellectual property
  • Entrepreneurship: Projects should aim to develop a large number of entrepreneurs within a region and to create an ecosystem in which those entrepreneurs can experiment with and can create businesses and jobs from their innovations
  • Regional connectivity: Projects should aim to connect economic development and technology commercialization resources
  • Commercialization of research: Projects should aim to convert ideas, research, or prototypes into viable products and services that can be brought to market by new or existing businesses in a financially manageable and rapid manner

2. Seed Fund Support: Funding is provided for the development, creation, or expansion of new or existing equity-based seed funds that increase one or more regional innovation clusters’, innovators’, and entrepreneurs’ access to early-stage capital. Proposed projects may aim for some or all of the following outputs and outcomes or others, as appropriate in light of each given proposed project’s regional, sectoral, and economic contexts:

  • Early-stage capital support for innovation-based, growth-oriented companies: Projects should aim to increase access to equity-based investments for new businesses (generally less than three years old with under $1 million in annual revenue) that are commercializing or using innovative technologies or other intellectual property in the development or delivery of their products or services by creating or expanding a new or existing equity-based investment fund and by exploring novel investment models that fit the needs of the regional innovation cluster and its entrepreneurs. The businesses in which the fund invests should demonstrate potential for high growth and include performance targets for job creation.
  • Plan for sustainability: Projects should include sustainability plans based on taking equity stakes in the businesses in which the program invests and should tailor its investment model and deal structures to optimize access to capital, sustainability, and regional economic impact, including regional job creation.
  • Demonstrated ecosystem and downstream support: Projects should aim to build and maintain ties into the community—a critical element of success for nascent companies—through connections to relevant elements of the community and regional ecosystem, including to support organizations (e.g., commercialization centers, incubators, and other training programs) and to downstream funding sources to support the capital needs of portfolio companies as they scale up and grow. Depending on the extent of the relevant regional innovation cluster’s connectedness and development, projects may include activities including outreach and education regarding early-stage risk investment and syndication and alignment of existing investors.

Amount: Award ranges vary by grant type:

  • i6 Challenge Grants: A total of $13,000,000 is available for awards ranging up to $500,000. The performance period is approximately three years.
  • Seed Fund Support Grants: A total of $4,000,000 is available for awards ranging up to $250,000. The performance period is approximately three years.

Eligibility: States; Indian tribes; a city or other political subdivision of a state; an entity whose application is supported by a state or a political subdivision of a state and that is: a nonprofit organization, an institution of higher education, a public-private partnership, a science or research park, a federal laboratory, or an economic development organization or similar entity; or a consortium of any of these entities.

Applicants must demonstrate at the time of application a matching share of at least 50 percent of the total project cost from non-federal sources.

Link: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=293716

Note: An informational webinar will be held on May 22 (registration required; for more details see: https://www.eda.gov/funding-opportunities/).

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