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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce


Spotlight: Looking for Innovative Ideas in New Places

September 2015 Newsletter

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Map of tech companies in Silicon Valley. Photo credit / source: tellerallaboutit.wordpress.com

These days, there is a lot of talk about “innovation hubs.” When people think about innovation, many think about tech-heavy areas like Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas with young start-up CEOs in jeans and hoodies. Or they think of big cities like Boston and Atlanta where giant companies invest in research and development for the next scientific breakthrough.

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Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, Alaska

However, rural areas can also be centers of innovation – places like Alaska, where the Cold Climate Housing Research Center is revolutionizing how people can heat their homes efficiently in the Arctic Circle, where energy costs can be staggering.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and necessity does not consider geographic boundaries or the divisions between urban and rural areas. This is why we are including a rural component to our 2015 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program and why we are asking applicants for outreach to underrepresented communities and populations in their regions.

While innovation can happen anywhere, it still needs to be fostered and supported in order to take root. The Federal Funding Opportunity (FFO) for the 2015 RIS opened last month and offers i6 Challenge ($8 million) and Seed Fund Support Grants ($2 million) funding. For 2015, EDA is proud to announce that we expect awarding up to $2.5 million of the available $8 million under the i6 Challenge to organizations that offer services to rural areas. EDA has supported other rural challenges and projects in the past through public works funding or partnerships with USDA and others, and this anticipated RIS funding will build on those previous efforts to promote rural innovation. Furthermore, EDA will look at all programs’ plans to reach out to underrepresented communities and populations and to measure and track participation and other success metrics.

Funding is available under i6 for capacity-building activities that include building and scaling Proof of Concept and Commercialization Centers and programs. Under the Seed Fund Support Grants, funding is available for operational support for organizations that provide early-stage funding to startups. Applicants can apply to one or both competitions. Information about eligibility and application requirements is available in the FFO.

In August, EDA hosted a #twitterchat and series of webinars to provide more info and answer questions. Recordings of the webinars are available online:

August 13 webinar, hosted by SSTI
August 18 webinar, hosted by USDA Rural Development

The deadline for 2015’s competition is Monday, October 5, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time – don't miss your chance to apply!

Contact oie@eda.gov for more information.