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Senate approved revamped Regional Innovation Strategies as part of defense bill

June 27, 2019
By: Jason Rittenberg

Thanks to leadership by Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), the Senate approved a revamped authorization of the Regional Innovation Strategies program (RIS) as part of its National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020 (NDAA). The bill would extend the program’s funding authority to $50 million per year through FY 2024. Further changes would define venture development organizations and recast RIS to have a greater emphasis on achieving beneficial economic outcomes within the awardee regions, including increasing the availability of financing for innovation-based business ventures and completing the introduction of new products, processes and services to market.

The RIS reauthorization was originally introduced this session as part of the Startup Act, by Senators Moran, Mark Warner (D-Va.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

The section was added to the defense bill in connection with another SSTI-endorsed bill that would support Manufacturing USA centers. This legislation also had bipartisan sponsorship from Senators Coons, Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Moran (R-Kan.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Other sections of the bill relevant for regional innovation economies include making Defense’s Proof of Concept Commercialization program permanent and increased funding for AI-related projects within the Defense Innovation Unit.

The House has reported its defense bill from the armed services committee but has not yet received action on the floor. Due to different rules between the chambers, a similar bill affecting Manufacturing USA and Regional Innovation Strategies by Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.) will not be part of the House’s NDAA.

The next action related to the RIS provisions will occur once the NDAA goes to the conference committee between the two chambers.

To find out how you can join SSTI’s Innovation Advocacy Council in supporting reauthorization, contact Jason Rittenberg (614-901-1690 | rittenberg@ssti.org).

dept of defense, RIS, legislation