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SSTI Digest

DOE, USDA, MEP release info on new funding opportunities, awards

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) have all made recent announcements on new funding provided either through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law or the CHIPS and Science Act. DoE is accepting applications for an $80 million program focused on benefiting small and medium-sized manufacturing firms. USDA and MEP announced more than 170 awards to expand innovative uses of wood and to address supply chain issues.

New resource: SSTI breaks down B2S program's Venture and Capital Challenges

In a recent installment of SSTI’s federal funding video series, SSTI program director Jerry Coughter conducted a two-part interview with Amanda Kosty, management and program analyst with the Economic Development Administration’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Their discussion focused on the Build to Scale (B2S) program’s two competition tracks: the Venture Challenge and the Capital Challenge. These interviews offer a comprehensive overview of each funding track and its alignment with technology-based economic development (TBED) strategies. They also provide valuable advice on crafting competitive applications, emphasizing understanding and directly addressing the specific challenges your community faces as part of your proposal.

Recent State Workforce Initiatives: Skills-Based Hiring, Mature Workers, and Reentry

As states continue to grapple with the effects of low unemployment and a tight labor market, lawmakers and workforce development organizations also continue to explore how to increase labor participation among nontraditional or marginalized workers – including several states which relaxed child labor laws during this year’s legislative sessions – to address areas or sectors that are experiencing workforce shortages.

NSF selects 34 semifinalists for the inaugural NSF Regional Innovation Engines competition

On June 14, 2023, NSF announced 34 semifinalists for the first-ever NSF Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) competition. The NSF Engines will be led by universities, nonprofits, businesses, and other organizations from across U.S. states and territories. Each NSF Engine could receive up to $160 million over 10 years; actual amounts will be subject to a given NSF Engine's status and overall progress, as assessed annually. Congratulations to the SSTI members that are finalists—including FuzeHub, Kentucky Science & Technology Corporation, Louisiana State University, Ohio State University, Rocky Mountain Innovation Initiative (Innosphere) and Virginia Tech—and the many members participating as partners across the awards.

NIST Announces staff for CHIPS R&D Office, potentially three future institutes

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Director Laurie E. Locascio announced five leaders joining the CHIPS Research and Development Office within CHIPS for America.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act (aka debt ceiling deal) cuts $150M from SSBCI, impacts education, research, and innovation

The upshot of the debt ceiling deal recently approved by Congress is that all nondefense discretionary spending will remain at its current level of $638 billion in FY 2024, which begins October 1. Additionally, some funds were marked for recission, including $150 million from the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). All jurisdictions that have been approved or have applied for SSBCI funding will not see a decrease in their funds, according to an email from Treasury regarding SSBCI. SSBCI incentive allocation funds and Formula Technical Assistance (TA) Grant Program allocations for Tribal governments, states, territories, and D.C. also will not be affected by the legislation. More complicated is the impact the deal will have on funding for research, innovation, and education.

$2.6 billion allocated to protect coastal communities and restore marine resources

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released its plans to invest $2.6 billion in coastal resilience funded by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). These funds will support communities on the frontlines of climate change, restore marine resources, improve weather and climate data and services, strengthen NOAA's research airplane and ship fleet, invest in critical infrastructure, and more. Of particular interest to Digest readers will be funding for ocean-based climate resilience accelerators and climate-ready workforce.

Some Republican Governors exerting influence over state higher education and DEI

Republican dissatisfaction with colleges and universities has been growing for some time. The Pew Research Center detected growing discontent with colleges and universities in 2012 and found that from 2015 to 2019, the number of individuals saying colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country went from 37% to 59%. This increase happened among Republicans, while Democrats and independents who lean Democratic remained largely stable and overwhelmingly positive. This trend is now apparent from recent legislation and political direction from conservative Republican states. Anti-DEI bills have been signed into law in North Dakota and Tennessee, and Florida has signed two anti-DEI bills into law. Texas has final legislative approval on two bills.

Type 1 recipient shares four elements to their successful NSF Engine proposal

NSF designed the recently awarded NSF Engine Type 1 development awards to bring technology-based solutions to bear on many critical challenges facing our nation. These challenges include climate change and sustainability, and this week we are highlighting three SSIT members whose NSF Engine proposals focus on sustainability. SSTI member-led projects related to sustainability include the University of Texas at Austin’s project to research and develop energy and train the next-generation energy professionals (SSTI member Sandia National Laboratories is on this team), The Water Council’s project to advance water and energy technologies for the manufacturing and utilities sectors (SSTI member Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is a partner), and the University of Hawai’i’s project to create a climate-resilient food innovation network.

Innovation landscapes: The changing role of corporate research

Corporate laboratories were hotspots for U.S. innovation for most of the twentieth century. Large firms, such as DuPont or Bell Labs, acted as epicenters for research and development activities, driving investment in frontier technologies underserved by university researchers at the time. By the 1980s, however, many of these powerhouses of industrial research began to cut back on their research programs, paving the way for universities and startups to emerge as new centers of innovation.

Texas aims to lead the future of semiconductor manufacturing

Just before the 2023 Memorial Day weekend, the Texas Senate passed and sent the Texas CHIPS Act bill to the governor’s desk. The legislation creates the Texas Semiconductor Innovation Consortium in a bid to protect the state’s competitive standing for future federal funding and authorizes the Texas Semiconductor Innovation Fund. The recently passed Texas budget appropriates $1.3 million for the Consortium, but it does not appear that there is a dedicated appropriation in the budget bill for the Fund.

NSF Engines muster local resources to compete with Silicon Valley and Boston

The recently awarded NSF Engine Type 1 development awards are intended to bring technology-based economic development to vast swaths of the US landscape, including those that Silicon Valley and Boston have long overshadowed. This week we kick off an examination of some of the proposals led by SSTI members that were selected by NSF for funding.