May 31, 2018

Supporting Local Efforts to Create Great Jobs through Entrepreneurship: EDA Launches 2018 Regional Innovation Strategies Program Competition

May 31, 2018

Guided by the basic principle that sustainable economic development should be locally-driven, the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) works directly with communities and regions to help them build capacity for economic development based on local business conditions. EDA’s flexible suite of programs support the implementation of locally-devised economic development strategies to address a continuum of economic development challenges – from planning and technical assistance, to infrastructure construction - that make it easier for businesses to start and grow.

At the heart of these businesses are some of America’s most creative and hardworking dreamers and doers: entrepreneurs! Embodying the American spirit, these intrepid individuals tirelessly push forward every day, breaking barriers with innovative technologies and services to create the high-skill, high-wage jobs that help advance the U.S. economy.

EDA recognizes how influential entrepreneurship is in building resilient, regional economies, and today EDA is excited to announce that the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the 2018 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program has been published and the competition is now open!

With up to $21 million available through the 2018 RIS NOFO, this year’s program will help spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation through two separate grants: the i6 Challenge and the Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grant competitions.

  • i6 Challenge ($16M): Across the country, regions and communities are helping entrepreneurs overcome challenging barriers to help build new companies and create jobs through the efforts of universities, community colleges, National Labs, state and local governments, incubators, and various other organizations. The i6 Challenge helps drive these efforts by supporting the creation and expansion of programs that increase the rate at which innovations, ideas, intellectual property, and research are translated into products, services, viable companies, and, ultimately, jobs.
  • Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grant Competition ($5M): The availability of funding for early-stage companies is an essential element of a healthy innovation-based regional ecosystem. Taking an idea or innovation from concept to market often requires capital, but in many regions across the country, innovators and entrepreneurs struggle to find that capital. SFS grants provide funding for technical assistance and operational costs that support the planning, formation, launch, or scale of cluster-based seed funds that will invest their capital in innovation-based startups with a potential for high growth.

To date, the RIS program has invested in 140 projects, totaling $57 million in federal funding across 40 states and Puerto Rico, supporting the creation of hundreds of new businesses, thousands of new jobs, and millions in new venture funding. These projects are led by collaborative historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), regional economic development organizations, forward thinking community colleges, leading non-profit business incubators and accelerators, unique rural, venture development organizations, and many other innovative organizations working hard to support entrepreneurship growth across their communities and industries.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to refer to the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFO) on for more details on both the i6 Challenge and Seed Fund Support grants, including eligibility, matching-fund requirements, application and submission deadlines, and other information. Funding for both programs is available to all communities regardless of level of distress.

EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship leads the RIS program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. Please stay tuned to the OIE RIS webpage for specific details on the forthcoming informational webinar for this year’s RIS competition.