funding

NSF launches Regional Innovation Engines program developed to stimulate regional economic growth and innovation

To expand the innovation capacity in the nation, the United States needs to leverage resources, creativity, and ingenuity from across all geographic regions. The National Science Foundation this week announced a new program in support of these efforts: the NSF Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines program.

USDA announces $1.4 billion in awards for rural development

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced a $1.4 billion investment into rural areas of the U.S. for job training, business development, and technical assistance. These investments are granted through eight different programs to 751 awardees across 49 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. USDA estimates that the grants and loans provided by these awards will create or save at least 50,000 jobs in the rural United States.

The breakdown of the dollars invested and number of awards by program is as follows:

EDA makes initial Build Back Better Regional Challenge awards

Earlier this week, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced the phase I winners of the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Each of the 60 awardees receive $500,000 to support their region and cluster — and begin the process of competing for one of the 20-30 phase II awards that can be up to $100 million each.

Workforce, industry clusters listed as top priorities under EDA’s Statewide Planning Grants

As the Economic Development Administration (EDA) continues to award its $3 billion allotment of pandemic relief funding made available by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), many states are taking aim at several specific areas of economic concern — while others are maintaining a broad perspective. Under the Statewide Planning, Research & Networks program (“planning grants”), EDA provides $1 million grants to states to use in forming coordinated state-wide plans for economic development as well as developing the data, tools, and capacity to evaluate and scale evidence-based economic development efforts. SSTI’s analysis of the funded projects’ brief descriptions shows that states were split between those focusing on broadly-scoped planning projects and those focusing on a few specific areas of interest.

Wide range of focus areas submitted to EDA’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently announced it received more than 500 applications to its Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC. Applicants are competing for 50 to 60 Phase 1 awards of $500,000 each to support the planning of “bottom-up, middle-out” economic development projects designed to advance and accelerate an equitable economic recovery, create good-paying jobs, and build resilient regions across the country. Winners of the Phase 1 awards will go on to develop a full proposal for Phase 2, and in March between 20 and 30 of the projects will receive up to $100 million each to implement their projects.

$5.4M in prizes to support inclusive entrepreneurship announced by SBA

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced a combined total of $5.4 million in awards to innovation-focused entrepreneur support organizations with programs to support entrepreneurs researching and developing STEM-related innovations. The 2021 competition included two prize tracks with 84 winners for the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) and eight winners for the new SBIR Catalyst competition, which aims to spur investment in underrepresented communities within the innovation economy.  

Defense awards $25 million to manufacturing communities

The Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation revealed the awardees from its second round of the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program this week. The office awarded $5 million to each of five organizations to lead partnerships that will strengthen defense manufacturing and related supply chains. The five awards are listed below and available on the office’s website:

NSF establishes new I-Corps Hubs to advance National Innovation Network

NSF announced five new multi-institution I-Corps Hubs to deliver entrepreneurship training to academic researchers and scale the National Innovation Network. Each hub is funded at $3 million per year for five years and comprises a regional alliance of at least eight universities. The hubs are intended to offer a more integrated approach than the previous I-Corps Nodes and I-Corps Sites, which were funded separately. The new model will provide increase funding and enable scaling I-Corps across the country.

Congress begins work on $3.5 trillion human infrastructure, includes $45 billion for House science to allocate

Early on Wednesday, the Senate passed a budget resolution that will serve as the framework for a human infrastructure bill. The current proposal is for $3.5 trillion in spending. This legislation, should it pass, seems likely to include substantial funding for regional innovation. More specifically, the Senate’s plans indicate that funding would support Regional Technology Hubs and other components of the US Innovation and Competition Act (USICA). 

Some universities canceling student debt

In an unexpected turn of events, some college students around the country have been logging into their accounts to check on account balances and finding them canceled. Many institutions of higher education across the country have been taking advantage of federal assistance provided through the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief funds (HEERF) to cancel student debt. HEERF I, II and III represent three programs that Congress appropriated to higher education to help prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including emergency financial grants to students.

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