The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is accepting applications for the Regional Innovation Grants: 2014 i6 Challenge.
Grants are available to USA state and local government agencies, non-profits, universities, and others for business incubation centers, either physical or virtual, existing or new, that will help new innovative businesses develop proofs of concept and bring their products to market. Eligible projects consistently and regularly create ventures that have prospects for high growth and spur economic development.
The i6 Challenge is a national competition based on the most impactful national models for start-up creation, innovation, and commercialization. It has been at the vanguard of Administration efforts to increase the number of start-ups as well as commercialize more research that will create greater economic value, and ultimately, jobs for the American people.
Regional economic vitality is best accomplished through multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaborations that draw upon public, corporate, university, non-profit, and philanthropic resources. Regional innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems—which have a culture of idea generation, leadership, trust, openness to foraging new partnerships with disparate parties, entrepreneurial development, investment capital, and a large pool of accomplished managers—often fuel these partnerships and collaborations. These ecosystems are the regional building blocks of a regional innovation strategy that helps drive national competitiveness.
To be eligible under the i6 Challenge, a proposed project must focus on driving economic development by building capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship, enabling individuals, firms and communities to achieve greater prosperity and quality of life.
Specifically, applications must focus on one or more of the following project outputs:
Innovation: Projects that nurture innovation broadly, and market-based applications for that innovation specifically, through the: 1) Creation of a broad-based, expansive culture of idea generation and the useful application of that innovation, including converting research and development at universities and research centers into commercially viable enterprises; 2) Engagement of a diverse set of researchers, innovators and practitioners supporting commercialization of inventions, ideas and/or research. Diversity can be defined by intellectual approach, innovation, background or experience; and 3) Engagement with industry professionals, investors, and successful entrepreneurs with innovation at its earliest stages to create the best climate, team and opportunities for an emerging high-growth start-up or acceleration of an existing startup.
- Entrepreneurship: Projects that develop a large number of high-growth entrepreneurs across disciplines and create an ecosystem for those entrepreneurs to experiment and commercialize their innovations, as determined by: 1) Support of educational programs and/or work experiences to prepare students and researchers for entrepreneurial challenges and work environments; and 2) Growth of the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem to ensure a steady stream of high-growth start-ups to drive job and value creation in the home region.
- Regional Connectivity: Projects that connect the community of economic development and commercialization resources through: 1) Special events to showcase inventions, ideas, research, technologies, and entrepreneurs to promote the exchange of ideas leading to the formation of new collaborations and ultimately the commercialization of innovations; and 2) Engagement with local business associations and government to ensure that high growth entrepreneurs and companies are more fully integrated into the local business community, and that their growing needs are addressed by a robust support network that includes specialized and readily-accessed technical assistance, access to capital, business associations and government officials.
- Commercialization of Research: Projects that convert ideas, research, or prototypes into viable products and services that can be monetized and brought to market in a financially manageable and rapid manner, as defined by: 1) Incorporation of mentors, industry catalysts and entrepreneurs in residence that provide advisory services and link technology and researchers to external networks; 2) Access to seed funding to support the commercialization of promising research through networks created by the organization or outside funding networks and tools; 3) Assistance with market evaluation, business planning, and business opportunity articulation; and 4) Creation of processes that integrate scientific review with market potential to greatly accelerate the best ideas from lab to market.
Under this FFO, applicants must demonstrate at the time of application a matching share from non-Federal sources. The applicant must show that the matching share will: (i) be committed to the project for the project period, (ii) be available as needed, and (iii) not be conditioned or encumbered in any way that may preclude its use consistent with the requirements of EDA investment assistance. EDA will give preference to applications with higher matching shares, which further leverage Federal funds and help ensure additional project impact.
Strong proposals will have organizations and individual investors submitting letters of intent to invest in the fund if it is not already developed. Strong candidates will have additional connections into the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem as demonstrated by letters of support from downstream investment sources, commercialization centers, incubators, accelerators, and/or the general business community to support the development of portfolio companies. Additionally, proposals that leverage and complement existing state, local, and non-profit organization programs and initiatives that support innovation and entrepreneurship, such as SBDCs, business incubators, or university programs, etc., will be considered more competitive than those that do not.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to start early and not to wait until the approaching application deadline before logging on and reviewing the instructions for submitting an application through Grants.gov. Applicants should save and print written proof of an electronic submission made at Grants.gov.
Visit the EDA website for more information about this funding opportunity.