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EDA opens Tech Hubs competition

May 18, 2023

When Dan Berglund, SSTI’s president and CEO, testified in a hearing before the House on an early draft of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, he noted that funding from the federal government that addresses the whole innovation system rather than individual elements of the system would be critical to building a regional innovation economy and different than any other federal program. With last Friday’s release of the first notice of funding opportunity for the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs (Tech Hubs) program that approach is becoming a reality. The program is intended to make investments that will help transform regional clusters in specific and critical technologies into globally competitive economies.

This Phase 1 announcement includes two competitions—one to designate regions as a Tech Hub and one to fund strategy development grants. Regions can participate in one or both competitions. At this time, $15 million in funding is available, with another $485 million to be made available this fall for the Phase 2 competition.

The  Tech Hubs program was authorized in last year’s CHIPS and Science Act,  and Congress provided $500 million of the statute’s $10 billion authorization for FY 2023.

The Tech Hubs program is designed to allow regions to identify their own geography, partners, technology area and funding needs and to then compete for funding that would address up to eight projects in one award process.

SSTI’s Technology-based Economic Development (TBED) Community of Practice is collecting information needs from organizations interested in Tech Hubs. Send your questions, challenges, and suggestions to tbedcop@ssti.org so these can be reflected in upcoming webinars, community discussions and other resources.

 

Tech Hubs Phase 1 Overview

Competitions. The Phase 1 announcement includes two separate competitions:

  • Designation as a Tech Hub. EDA will designate at least 20 regional consortia as Tech Hubs. A designation does not include funding but is required before regions can compete for an implementation award ($50 million - $75 million to fund 3-8 projects) in Phase 2, which will be released this fall.
  • Funding for strategy development. EDA will make approximately 30 awards of $500,000 each to support activities leading to Tech Hubs implementation awards (in this fall’s Phase 2 competition for regions that also receive a Tech Hubs designation this year) or a future Tech Hubs designation (should Congress provide additional program funding in FY 2024 or beyond).

Regional consortia can participate in one or both competitions during Phase 1.

Consortia. The program’s statute and funding opportunity clearly define the types of entities participating in the applying consortium. Generally, consortia must include higher education, government, industry (EDA encourages regions to meet the industry representation requirement by including multiple firms), tech-based economic development organizations, and labor/workforce organizations. See the announcement for specific institution types within each of these categories. Many other entity types may be included in the consortium as well.

Region. EDA’s announcement clarifies the definition of region, after an earlier factsheet had caused concerns about partnerships across metros. Applicants may propose a region that is a single metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area, or “tightly interconnected” combinations. While regions can include partners and assets outside this geography (whether rural areas or distant metros), the Hub’s concentration of assets and market opportunities in the selected technology area should be in the principal region.

Technologies. The CHIPS and Science Act defined key technology areas, and EDA’s announcement clearly requires consortia to be addressing a technology from this list (see below) in their proposals. Regions may pursue a tech area that intersects with multiple key areas from the list below, but EDA does not appear to encourage regions to select multiple technologies. Further, the consortium should already have strengths in the tech area and be looking to EDA to advance this strength into global competition. As the notice of funding reads, a region should: “identify a selected core technology area with a defined market opportunity and for which the consortium has a clearly articulable competitive advantage.”

The key technologies are the following:

  1. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy, and related advances;
  2. High performance computing, semiconductors, and advanced computer hardware and software;
  3. Quantum information science and technology;
  4. Robotics, automation, and advanced manufacturing;
  5. Natural and anthropogenic disaster prevention or mitigation;
  6. Advanced communications technology and immersive technology;
  7. Biotechnology, medical technology, genomics, and synthetic biology;
  8. Data storage, data management, distributed ledger technologies, and cybersecurity, including biometrics;
  9. Advanced energy and industrial efficiency technologies, such as batteries and advanced nuclear technologies, including but not limited to for the purposes of electric generation (consistent with 42 U.S.C. § 1874); and
  10. Advanced materials science, including composites 2D materials, other next-generation materials, and related manufacturing technologies.

Proposals for Tech Hubs designation and/or strategy development grants are due on August 15.

EDA has made informational materials, including fact sheets, frequently asked questions, and grant templates, available at: https://www.eda.gov/funding/programs/regional-technology-and-innovation-hubs.

eda, tech hubs, funding opportunity