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Spotlight: Jobs and Capital: How the Regional Innovation Strategies Program Helps Push the Economy Forward

National Entrepreneurship Month graphic

During National Entrepreneurship Month, as we celebrate the dynamic startups and entrepreneurs all over our nation that are building innovative businesses and making America more competitive with new jobs, cutting edge technology, and stronger regional economies, we pause to reflect on our flagship platform for innovation and entrepreneurship, the Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.

Launched in 2014, this national grant competition works to help support and amplify the best organizations, practices, and resources local communities are using to aid their entrepreneurs build and scale high-tech, innovative businesses in order to create new jobs and strong regional economies.

To date, EDA has awarded over $56 million to 142 projects across 42 states and 1 territory, but these federal grants are just a small piece of much larger community support. Entrepreneurship is truly a contact sport, requiring teams of dedicated individuals to break through challenging barriers, and thus, the RIS program prides itself in the nearly $67 million in private and local matching funds that organizations and communities have committed to see these projects thrive.

More than 72% of these investments have less than one year underway, but the inaugural 2014 cohort is really hitting their stride as their programs begin to mature, after 2.5 years underway.

With $8 million in Federal grants, and more than $10.2 million in private sector match, the 2014 i6 Challenge program grantees have:

  • Created or retained over 1,400 full-time jobs
  • assisted over 850 entrepreneurs and innovators;
  • conducted 1,900 technical assistance meetings and 1,400 mentoring and coaching sessions;
  • raised $269.8 million in private investments, SBIR funding, grants and loans.

With $1.9 million in Federal grants, and more than $2.33 million in private sector match, the 2014 Seed Fund Support program grantees have:

  • raised $8.68 million in seed capital funding;
  • conducted 300 meetings and events to generate new limited partners; and
  • made 43 investments totaling $3.78 million into early-stage companies.

EDA is thrilled to see such compelling outcomes from these young programs, but numbers only tell half the story. The diversity in industry, geography, and demographics in the RIS portfolio is a testament tothe American entrepreneurial spirit.

Teams in Nebraska and Iowa are pushing the ag-tech and food-tech innovation world forward with their work in America’s heartland, creating new accelerator programs and venture capital funds. Others in Pennsylvania and Florida are helping small makers and manufactures turn their ideas and products into growing manufacturing businesses, selling their products domestically and internationally. Lastly, and perhaps most surprisingly, RIS is helping research experts partner with entrepreneurs in unique places like El Paso, TX and Grand Forks, ND to bring new aerospace and unmanned aerial systems technologies to market.

With the 2015 RIS cohort maturing into their second year of operations in 2018, EDA can’t wait to see what is in store for these communities in the coming months.

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