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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce


Highlight: An Innovative Year at EDA

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Asst. Secretary Jay Williams and OIE Director Julie Lenzer participate in an Innovation Roundtable for Global Entrepreneurship Week

Innovation is a huge priority for the Department of Commerce. Promoting innovation and entrepreneurship is one of the five pillars of the strategic plan, and it permeates the activities across the entire department. In April, Secretary Pritzker chaired the first meeting of the President’s Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship (PAGE), which is a group of successful American businesspeople who have committed to sharing their time, energy, ideas, and experience to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.

This year, EDA has made tremendous strides in its efforts to promote and foster innovation. In May, Secretary Pritzker announced Julie Lenzer’s appointment as the Director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE). In the little over six months since Julie came aboard, OIE has worked to fill the 2014-2016 National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) board, launched a Regional Innovation Strategies program, and has emphasized the vital role economic development plays in fostering innovation.

Secretary Pritzker announced the 27 new NACIE members in October, and the group met earlier this month to get started advising Secretary Pritzker on accelerating innovation, expanding entrepreneurship, and developing a globally competitive workforce. NACIE is comprised of innovators from academia, business, and the non-profit sector, which will ensure a diversity of viewpoints are considered when setting policy and pursuing projects intended to spur innovation.

The Regional Innovation Strategies program is a $15 million grant competition designed to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Under this program, EDA is solicited applications for three separate funding opportunities, including: the i6 Challenge, Science and Research Park Development grants, and cluster grants to support the development of Seed Capital Funds. The grants will be awarded in early 2015, so stay tuned for more information about the grantees and their projects.

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Asst. Secretary Williams and OIE Director Julie Lenzer at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center

While NACIE and the regional innovation strategies program are tangible efforts, equally important is the influence OIE has had on the economic development discourse. Too often, economic development efforts are left out of the conversation of how to promote innovation and support entrepreneurship. Yet, economic development can play a crucial role in both, and there are numerous examples of EDA investments that do just that. EDA made investments in Greenville, South Carolina, that supported the establishment of the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR), which is an epicenter for automotive innovation. In September, EDA announced a $4.2 million grant to the Buck’s County Biotechnology Center in Doyleston, Pennsylvania to expand its facility and extend services to more entrepreneurs. There are similar examples too numerous to list from all over the country that demonstrate EDA’s support of innovation and entrepreneurship.

In early 2015, the winners of the Regional Innovation Strategies program will kick off a new crop of pioneering projects, and the new NACIE members will be hard at work. Stay tuned for updates on all the amazingly innovative things happening at and being supported by EDA in the New Year.