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SSTI outlines ideas for planning, design of EDA Tech Hubs

March 23, 2023

Expanding U.S. innovation capacity sits at the heart of SSTI’s mission, and it was that driving force that guided our response to the Economic Development Administration’s request for information to inform the planning and design of the regional Technology and Innovation Hub (Tech Hubs) program last week. With $10 billion authorized for the program, and $500 million appropriated, the opportunity for growth in the nation demands a thoughtful and actionable plan. SSTI argues that where the country is now has been decades in the making; therefore, a deliberate, well-considered plan providing ample opportunity for regions to both comment on proposed program guidelines and develop local partnerships is needed. In short, EDA should resist the temptation to get the money out the door as fast as possible.

The SSTI response takes into consideration our broad perspective of previous federal and state initiatives intended to strengthen regional economies, as well as feedback from prior awardees and applicants for EDA programs. The Tech Hubs program will provide a new opportunity to meet current social, health, climate and economic challenges, and it is imperative that implementation of the program propel equitable solutions that will drive growth and prosperity for all.

In seeking ways to help shape that growth, SSTI’s response centers on the federal government’s new systems approach as opposed to previous individual awards, and recommends $50 million of the $500 million be allocated for strategy development grants and $450 million for implementation awards.

Given the enormity of the task ahead and the potential benefit and realizing that change on the scale that is necessary to shift the economy takes time, our RFI response urges a clear competition process, time for communities to understand and respond both thoughtfully and strategically, and EDA utilizing the $50 million to make that happen. The remaining $450 million should be considered for five to eight regional consortia to better invest in a variety of technologies and strategies than could be achieved with just three awards.

SSTI also outlines ideas on how the Tech Hubs consortium could work and sets out a baseline requirement for existing research assets and explores the implementation award usage to provide capital to businesses, considerations for the application process, urges flexibility in the implementation awards to allow for changing conditions, urges EDA to consider additional assistance that could advance the regions through the funding for the Hubs, and encourages the agency to measure what matters in its evaluation process of the program.

The entire SSTI response to the RFI can be found here.

technology, eda, funding, rfi