Tech Hubs RFI Roll Up Summary
In February 2023, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) issued a Request for Information (RFIs) to solicit feedback on the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub (Tech Hubs) program. EDA received 300 responses and each response was reviewed by EDA staff. Responses have informed design decisions for the recently released Phase 1 Notice of Funding Opportunity and will continue to be used by EDA going forward, including in the design of the Phase 2 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFOs).
Below are key themes for the Tech Hubs program RFI responses.
In February 2023, the EDA issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit feedback on the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub (Tech Hubs) program. EDA received 300 responses from organizations and individuals across the country by the close of the RFI on March 16, 2023. Each response was reviewed by EDA staff. Responses have informed design decisions for the Phase 1 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), which was released in May 2023. Responses will continue to be used by EDA going forward, including in the design of the Phase 2 NOFO (anticipated in fall 2023).
Respondents included a wide representation of Tech Hubs stakeholders including universities (48); Congressional or state/local government (33); economic development organizations or similar (45); industry or industry associations (52); non-profits and service providers (61); individuals (29); and unions (2). EDA also received 30 responses from regional consortia comprising these stakeholders. Respondents represented 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and several national organizations.
Key takeaways from the responses include:
- Respondents shared enthusiasm for the goal of expanding the geography of innovation across the country, including in rural areas, and recommended a wide range of indicators to identify and assess potential future Tech Hubs, which will inform EDA’s evaluation process. EDA will run the Tech Hubs competition with a focus on geographic diversity. Specifically, the Tech Hubs Program, as required by the CHIPS and Science Act, has key requirements that ensure geographic diversity in EDA’s Designation of at least 20 Tech Hubs. The statutory authorization requires EDA Designate at least 3 in each EDA region; no fewer than one-third that benefit small and rural communities; no fewer than one-third that include as a member of the consortium a State or territory that is eligible to receive funds from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR); at least one Tech Hub with its headquarters in a low population state that is eligible to receive funding from the EPSCoR; and at least two Tech Hubs that benefit underserved communities in metropolitan areas. In awarding Strategy Development grants, EDA also seeks to fund no fewer than one-third that benefit small and rural communities and no fewer than one-third that include as a member of the consortium a State or territory that is eligible to receive funds from EPSCoR.
- Respondents requested more information from EDA on the threshold of competitiveness for a successful applicant. Given the program’s goals, EDA will look for applicants with the assets, resources, and capabilities to emerge over the next decade as a globally competitive region in particular in one of the 10 key technology focus areas set out in the Tech Hubs statute.
- Respondents cited the importance of community buy-in and participation in the creation of a Tech Hub and provided recommendations to ensure benefits reach underserved residents in the region. EDA will run the Tech Hubs competition with a focus on equity, encouraging the inclusion of community-based organizations and underserved representatives in consortia leadership and expecting applicants to articulate their plans for equitable engagement and outcomes.
- Respondents emphasized the importance of defined geographies and critical mass of assets that lead to agglomeration effects, while also sharing specific considerations for rural areas where assets may be more distributed. EDA defines a Hub’s geography as a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) or a similar area (including Micropolitan Statistical Areas (μSAs) or tightly interconnected combinations of MSAs and/or μSAs) with a concentration of assets, capital, R&D, labor market, and infrastructure strongly relevant to the Hub’s selected core technology area, the Hub’s identified market opportunity, and its potential to become globally competitive in that area within a decade. Applicants should identify their chosen geography as part of their application. Applicants should consider their chosen geography as the nexus of the Tech Hub but may include partnerships outside that geography as part of the hub. Consortia may include assets or members outside the chosen geography—e.g., in nonmetro rural areas or partnerships with geographically distant but tightly mission-aligned organizations—that support the consortia’s strategy and benefit the Hub.
- Respondents expressed the benefit of early signals of competitiveness from EDA to help regions decide whether to expend resources to develop a full application for implementation grants. The Tech Hubs program will deploy funding in two phases, with each having its own NOFO. In Phase 1, EDA will award approximately 20-30 Strategy Development awards, and EDA will designate no fewer than 20 Tech Hubs. Only Designated Tech Hubs will be invited to apply under Phase 2 for implementation grants.
- Regarding initial funding of the Tech Hubs program, respondents shared that fewer, larger implementation awards would be most effective at achieving the intent of the program. In Phase 2, EDA expects to make approximately 5-10 implementation awards. Contingent on future funding levels, EDA aims to invest in more Hubs to expand the Program’s portfolio of technologies and places and may make follow-on investments in successful Hubs with opportunities for additional impact.
- Respondents provided recommendations on the types of partnerships that would lead to successful Tech Hubs consortia. In addition to the minimum required consortia members laid out by statute, EDA is encouraging consortia to include both multiple private sector partners in their chosen technology and organizations such as labor that represent the workers in that industry.
In addition to these themes, the Tech Hubs RFI process generated a large set of recommendations and best practices in fields such as commercialization and tech transfer, workforce development, program evaluation, and more. Throughout the competition, EDA will continue to integrate these insights from the public into the design of the Tech Hubs program and to share themes with potential applicants in future communications.
An archived page of the full Tech Hubs Request for Information may be found at the Federal Register.
 See https://www.census.gov/geographies/reference-maps/2020/demo/state-maps.html for current maps of MSAs. Note that MSA delineations are scheduled to be updated in the coming months.