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SBA To Fund Regional Innovation Clusters in NM, WI, Ozarks, Gulf Coast

October 02, 2014

The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced four new Regional Innovation Clusters that will be included among its portfolio of high-performing regional networks. Awardee clusters will receive $500,000-$550,000 for mentoring, counseling, pitch development and other small business support programs.  The new members of SBA’s cluster portfolio include Milwaukee’s Water Technology Cluster, Southeastern New Mexico’s Autonomous and Unmanned Systems Cluster, a Retail, Supply Chain and Food Processing Cluster spanning the Ozarks region and a Marine Industries Cluster in several Gulf Coast states.

The four awardees will join SBA’s current portfolio of seven regional clusters from around the country. The geographic scope of these clusters varies considerably, with one defense-focused cluster based entirely in San Diego County, and another Advanced Power Cluster with participants in 30 states. In addition to offering funding for cluster development, SBA has aggressively tracked the development of these clusters and the impact of various initiatives. A July 2014 report on the third year of the cluster program observed that all seven participants had entered the “mature” phase of cluster development, in which leaders are focused on providing services for businesses and the cluster itself has begun to draw in organizations and businesses. In the previous year’s report, only one of the clusters had entered this phase.

SBA’s third-year report also includes a list of lessons learned in regional cluster development. For example, SBA advises cluster leaders to promote a broad range of funding options, particularly for proof-of-concept funding and technology validation. The report also includes a recommendation to use IT tools to store and process data related to cluster services and participants.

Read the cluster funding announcement…

In addition to the new clusters, SBA also announced an expansion of the Small Business Investment Company Impact Investment Fund and support for small businesses in eight communities through the ScaleUp America program. The expansion of the Impact Investment Fund includes a number of policy changes within the program, including adding advanced manufacturing companies and SBIR recipients to the list of companies eligible for impact investments.

New Mexico, Wisconsinsba, federal agency, clusters, metros