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Success Story: Jobs, Capital and Ecosystems: The Regional Innovation Strategies Program Shows Results

March 2017 Newsletter

EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program support’s cluster-focused innovation activities that spur job creation and economic growth.

Since the first RIS program grants were made in 2015, EDA has awarded more than $40 million across three funding rounds to support organizations working to help entrepreneurs bring new technologies to market. But it’s not just the federal investment making a big difference—the program requires grantees to pull together a minimum one-to-one match for every Federal dollar invested, ensuring that key community stakeholders have skin in the game.

Overall, communities have directly leveraged $1.30 for every Federal dollar requested, with an upward trend year-over-year. When community players have this direct interest in and connection to the program, there’s a clearly united front that supports local entrepreneurs who ultimately create jobs and improve economic growth.

Whether by helping universities build new programs for underserved rural entrepreneurs, by connecting seed investors to rally around local investing, or by improving maker spaces so more entrepreneurs can scale their inventions from hobbies to businesses, this community-focused approach, funded through the RIS program, has shown positive results even though many of the efforts are just starting up. With the 2014 and 2015 grantees having only 22 months and 11 months into their respective project periods, this holistic ecosystem approach has already produced some exciting results.

As of September 30, 2016, the 2014 and 2015 i6 Challenge program grantees have:

  • created over 950 full-time jobs;
  • assisted over 1,000 entrepreneurs and innovators;
  • conducted 2,615 technical assistance meetings and 4,876 mentoring and coaching sessions;
  • raised $166 million in private investments, SBIR funding, grants and loans.

And as of September 30, 2016, the 2014 and 2015 Seed Fund Support program grantees have:

  • raised $11 million in seed capital funding;
  • conducted 371 meetings and events to generate new limited partners; and
  • made 34 investments totaling $3.4 million into early-stage companies.

We’re excited about these numbers not only because they show this program’s effectiveness, but also because they are strong indicators for its substantial long-term positive impact: over 55% of the grants under management have more than 2 years left in their project periods, and we expect these catalytic programs to affect regional economic and job growth positively for many years past their project periods. This value-driven economic development approach that deploys small, tactical investments into entrepreneurship ecosystems that support growing and resilient regional economies clearly has been valuable to the more than 85 i6 Challenge and Seed Fund Support competition grantees to date, but the impact doesn’t end there.

Later this year, EDA expects to release the 2017 Federal Funding Opportunity for the Regional Innovation Strategies program, which will include the i6 Challenge for incubation and acceleration activities and the Seed Fund Support grant for formation, launch, and growth of early-stage seed capital funds. Whether you’ve thought about applying before or are just hearing about this for the first time, now is the time to start bringing your local stakeholders together and to engage with your EDA regional office on strategies to prepare.