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SBA Regional Innovation Cluster awardees revealed

April 11, 2019

Seven regional innovation cluster (RIC) initiatives have each been awarded $500,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Although the SBA has yet to publish an official press release indicating the release of the 2019 Regional Innovation Cluster awardees, SSTI identified the awardees through other sources, such as USASpending.gov and a review of local news media. Read on for more information on the program’s awardees.

Defense Alliance, one of the original regional innovation cluster designees, will again receive funding in the newest round. With a geographic focus on North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the group will emphasize “business development funding for rural small businesses, those in HUBZone and Opportunity Zone designated areas, and those interested in funding opportunities with the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” according to a press release. They will also support commercialization efforts in industries such as energy, strategic natural resources, cybersecurity, and advanced manufacturing.

In Montana, an initiative led by the Montana Technology Enterprise Center (MonTEC) will focus on boosting the state’s bioscience industry, according to a recent article in The Missoulian. In addition to MonTEC, the initiative will also collaborate with the Missoula Economic Partnership, the Montana Bioscience Alliance, Montana World Trade Center, the University of Montana, the Missoula Economic Partnership, and Swan Valley Medical. The funds will go toward “engagement between companies and researchers, workforce development programs that align existing and anticipated industry need, technical assistance and a gap fund to help bioscience entrepreneurs,” according to the article.

The Conductor, a public-private partnership between Startup Junkie and the University of Central Arkansas, will use its funds to expand its operations across the state’s rural and underserved areas, according to an article in Arkansas Money and Politics. Founded in 2016, the Conductor provides free services to entrepreneurs such as consulting and an angel-network. SBA funds will allow the organization to grow its staff and scale its work.

Optics Valley, a successor to the Arizona Optics Industry Association, will focus their RIC efforts on boosting the state’s photonics industry, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Led by Strategy1, a Tucson based consultancy, the Optics Valley initiative will also collaborate with the Arizona Technology Council, Pima Community College and the University of Arizona’s Tech Launch Arizona and Tech Park Arizona to support activities such as workforce development programs, direct mentoring and coaching and professional programs for existing companies in the industry.

Kansas State University’s Technology Development Institute will house the Great Plains Technology and Manufacturing Cluster, according to Hutchinson News. The Great Plains TMC will partner with the Kansas Department of Commerce, NetWork Kansas, the Kansas Small Business Development Centers and a number of rural regional development offices across the state of Kansas and the western portion of Missouri. The goal of the RIC is to increase awareness, connectivity to resources and collaboration across the Great Plains region.

AgLaunch, a Memphis-based accelerator focused on agribusiness, will use its funds to work with startups and entrepreneurs in Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, and Mississippi, according to the Venture Nashville Connections newsletter. Award information was verified through USASpending.gov.

The last RIC to be announced is the Utah Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative (UAMMI). Award information comes from USASpending.gov and was confirmed by UAMMI leadership. UAMMI is a previous winner of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) competition, and will use its RIC funding to expand its operations in the state’s rural areas.

Several of the previous cluster initiative awardees also had their options exercised for a fifth year, according to USASpending.gov. These initiatives are:

  • BioSTL, in St. Louis;
  • The Water Council, in Milwaukee;
  • Startup Junkie’s Ozarks Regional Innovation Cluster, in Northwest Arkansas;
  • Emerging Technology Ventures’ Autonomous & Unmanned Systems Cluster, in Southeastern New Mexico;
  • The University of Southern Mississippi’s Marine Industries Science & Technology Cluster; 
  • The Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth’s Forest Products Cluster, in Southeastern Ohio; and,
  • Development Capital Networks’ Unmanned Aerial Systems Cluster, in Kansas and Oklahoma.