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SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Opens January 8

January 11, 2024
By: SSTI Staff

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the 2024 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) on January 8. The competition offers $50,000 to $200,000 in prize awards “for impactful and inclusive approaches to foster a thriving, collaborative national innovation support ecosystem to advance research and development (R&D) from ideas to impact.” The competition is not intended to provide capital directly to companies for R&D projects. The prizes will be awarded in two stages.

The stage one application portal opens on January 8 for a five-week window. This stage offers $50,000 in cash prizes awarded to organizations for ecosystem-building activities, including recruiting new partners and strengthening existing alliances among stakeholders, including public, private, non-profit, and academic partners. Contestants work collaboratively with chosen partners to bring additional resources, deepen network connections, and develop strategies to support STEM/R&D-focused entrepreneurs and small businesses. SBA welcomes stage one submissions from organizations with a collaborative vision to nurture a national ecosystem for equitable access to entrepreneurship. 

Applicants are asked to align their application with one of the following GAFC Theme Areas:

  • National and Economic Security, including but not limited to national security and defense, artificial intelligence, microelectronics, advanced computing and software, quantum computing, and human-machine interfaces.
  • Domestic Manufacturing and Production, including but not limited to advanced manufacturing R&D, supply chain resiliency, critical and resilient infrastructure, agtech and agricultural innovation. 
  • Sustainability and Biotechnology, including but not limited to energy and sustainability, biotechnology, climate and environment, public health, renewable energy generation and storage, electric vehicles, and blue economy.

SBA expects to award up to $3,000,000 in cash prizes for stage one and intends to announce winners by April 2024.

Stage two of the competition offers an additional $50,000 to $150,000 in cash prizes to eligible stage one winners to assist entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups looking to commercialize their innovation, from R&D to the commercial market. SBA intends to announce winners for stage two by September 2024. A federal agency partner may also elect to provide a bonus prize to one or more stage one contestants focused on a priority area of the agency partner’s choice. Bonus prize winners are awarded from the pool of stage one contestants.

SBA is offering two information webinars to help potential stage one applicants. The webinars are free and open to the public. 

The first webinar, GAFC Pre-Application Webinar: Goals, rules, and how to apply, will be presented on January 16, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. EST. Register here.

The second webinar, GAFC Theme Explanation Webinar: A deep-dive into the tech themes with experts from relevant federal agencies, will be presented on January 31, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. EST. Register here.

Click here to access the application form.

Download full competition guidelines here.

Email accelerators@sba.gov with any questions about the GAFC.

sba, competition