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Regional Innovation Strategies making $35 million available

February 20, 2020

The U.S. Economic Development Administration has announced the FY 2020 notice of funding availability for the Regional Innovation Strategies program. There are multiple changes to the program this year, including that EDA is now referring to the program as “Build to Scale.” A total of $35 million is available this year due to support from Congress with advocacy from SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council. The Trump Administration budget proposal for FY2020, and again for FY2021, proposed eliminating the program. Initial applications are due March 24.

The following are significant changes to the program this year:

  • Branding – EDA has renamed all aspects of the program. RIS is now "Build to Scale." The i6 Challenge is now the "Venture Challenge." Seed Fund Support is now "Capital Challenge." 
  • Application process – EDA is instituting a two-step application process. All applicants now begin with a comparatively brief "Concept Proposal" (the format is similar to SBA's Growth Accelerator Fund Competition). This preliminary application is due March 24. After receiving feedback from EDA, organizations will have until June 14 to submit the full proposal.
  • "Scale" tier – The Venture Challenge (formerly i6 Challenge) now has a basic tier, which is similar to past competitions and makes awards up to $600,000. This notice adds a second tier for experienced organizations with track records of success. Under the “scale” tier, organizations can apply for up to $1.5 million in matching funds.
  • New "Industry Challenge" – EDA and the Dept. of Energy are partnering to provide up to $4 million in awards only for efforts that will advance water technology. 

EDA expects to award $26 million for the venture challenge, $5 million for the capital challenge, and $4 million for the industry challenge in this funding cycle.

SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council has been a champion for RIS in Congress, helping to secure its initial appropriation and increase funding from $10 million in FY 2015 to its current level. Organizations interested in this program are strongly encouraged to engage with SSTI. Contact Jason Rittenberg (rittenberg@ssti.org | 614-901-1690).

RIS, eda, funding opportunity