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Study indicates racial bias in NSF grant funding

A group of seven researchers analyzed upwards of one million National Science Foundation (NSF) proposals over a 23-year period (1996-2019) and found patterns of racialized disparities where white principal investigators (PIs) were consistently funded at higher rates (8+ percent) than most non-white PIs. The preprint study (not peer reviewed) states that similar patterns can be observed in other agencies and are consistent with other past studies as well. The question of whether systemic racism is at play in the NSF peer review and award selection process is even more pronounced when one considers more specific demographics such as Black and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander PIs.

ARC launches $73.5 million grant initiative to grow regional economies in Appalachia

A new $73.5 million grant opportunity using funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is aimed at growing and supporting the development of new economic opportunities across multiple states in Appalachia. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) launched the Appalachian Regional Initiative for Stronger Economies (ARISE) on Aug. 23 to drive large-scale, regional economic transformation through multi-state collaborative projects across the region. ARC has published a request for proposals, which makes available at least $10 million in FY 2022 funding for planning grants with a maximum award size of $500,000, and up to $63.5 million for implementation grants with a $10 million maximum award size. ARC has released a toolkit to help guide potential applicants in considering their multistate proposals and will hold a pre-application workshop on Sept. 12.

Four new NSF Engineering Research Centers announced

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has announced four new Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) that will focus on agriculture, health, manufacturing and smart cities. The research centers will receive $104 million over five years and will be aimed at finding more sustainable solutions to food production, autonomous manufacturing systems, human health and the built environment, and hyperlocal street technology. The four research centers are: 

GAO, Future of EPSCoR committee issue reports

Jurisdictions that were early EPSCoR participants benefitted more from the program with higher project approval rates, but whether program goals are being met is unclear, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report examining National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). The GAO report and another from the subcommittee on the Future of EPSCoR looked at the effectiveness of the program and made recommendations for improvement.

Congressional inaction threatens SBIR program

The federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, providing nearly $4 billion in technology research and development funding, expire — in just six weeks — on Sept. 30. Unlike many federal programs that regularly operate beyond the end of their authorization, there is no direct SBIR appropriation that will ensure the program continues as-is without congressional action. Instead, SBIR would be on an agency-by-agency basis. The Department of Defense already announced it “cannot continue funding new or ongoing” projects without reauthorization, and the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) has warned that even the agencies that carry on may have challenges with SBIR data rights (a non-disclosure obligation on the federal government for certain information developed under an SBIR/STTR award) and post-award (i.e., Phase III) purchases of SBIR-developed technologies by federal agencies.

Five things to know about the Inflation Reduction Act

President Joe Biden has signed the Inflation Reduction Act, a $740-billion bill that largely focuses on clean energy and climate resiliency, deficit reduction and health care, funded through tax changes. Unlike the initial proposals for a reconciliation spending package, this legislation provides little spending that will directly affect tech-based economic development strategies, although its climate provisions will spur significant growth opportunities for cleantech. There are multiple provisions and opportunities included in the act that are important for regions to understand.

GAO finds new Air Force SBIR process increases participation and geographic distribution of awards

A new open topic approach used by the U.S. Air Force in issuing Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards coincided with an overall increase in the agency’s SBIR/STTR participation figures and proposal processing times, according to a recent federal analysis. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that using open topics for soliciting Phase I proposals, which the Air Force implemented in 2018, has largely displaced the agency’s conventional process of offering very specific research topics. The open approach was found to be more effective in attracting new companies to federal contracting and issuing awards quickly. GAO found nearly 43 percent of the 1,001 open topics awardees had no prior federal contract experience compared to only 14 percent of the 771 conventional awardees being new to federal procurement. Additionally, GAO reports that an April 2021 study found that after receiving an open topic award these awardees were more likely to obtain further funding from other sources.

Recent Research: Access to information is key to SBIR effectiveness

Accelerators, incubators and entrepreneurial assistance programs work to ensure their startups understand their product’s market competition, customers, and supply chain. As it turns out, that’s also good advice for small research-based firms trying to move from SBIR proof-of-concept funding to securing the larger Phase II awards. A survey of approximately 250 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program awardees by researchers finds market information from suppliers, customers, and competitors to be key for small entrepreneurial firms to increase publicly funded research and development (R&D) effectiveness.

OMB’s FY 2024 budget guidance for federal agencies adds R&D priorities, specificity

The White House Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy jointly issued a memorandum to all federal agencies outlining an expanded list of research and development priorities. The document is intended to guide all executive branch offices and agencies as they put together their budget requests for fiscal year 2024. Nearly twice as long as the Biden administration's priority memo last year, the updated list includes more priorities and more details drilling deeper into the top concerns.

Senate Dems propose increased innovation funding for FY 2023

With the fiscal year coming to a close and the U.S. Senate having yet to advance any appropriations bills for the next year, the Senate Democrats have released their proposals for FY 2023 funding levels. Due to the potential for substantial changes when the final FY 2023 budget is passed, this article only covers specific funding levels that are a high priority for the tech-based economic development (TBED) field. Funding levels from the House Committee on Appropriations for FY 2023 and FY 2022 enacted amounts also are provided in parentheses for comparison purposes.

Recent survey explores perceptions of higher education

The recently published, 2022 edition of New America’s annual survey on American perceptions of higher education, Varying Degrees, includes findings that should be of interest – and potential concern – for the TBED community. The report includes updated findings on American perceptions of the value, funding, accountability, and admissions for higher education and perceptions of current financial security. It also reveals significant differences in perceptions of higher education based on respondents’ political affiliations.

EDA announces 32 winners of $500 million Good Jobs Challenge

Thirty two industry-led workforce training partnerships from across the country were announced as the grant winners of the $500 million Good Jobs Challenge by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Selected from 509 proposals, the regional partnerships are focused on removing barriers to training and are expected to increase more equitable labor participation with a focus on 15 key industries.

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