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Regional Innovation Strategies: From Idaho to Puerto Rico, EDA awards over $16m to support local capacity for high-tech innovation and job creation

EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is adding 24 exciting new i6 Challenge projects to its Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program portfolio. Together with 16 new Seed Fund Support awards, EDA is catalyzing a new cohort of capacity-building projects in its diverse RIS portfolio, which has already created over 8,200 jobs and $1 billion in follow-on capital during the program’s first four years of operation.

The 2018 RIS Notice of Funding Opportunity brought in 160 i6 Challenge applications from across the nation. EDA designed the i6 Challenge to increase productivity and accelerate growth through entrepreneurship that translates innovations, ideas, intellectual property, and applied research into new businesses, accelerated paths to export, increased foreign direct investment, and new jobs.

The 2018 cohort of i6 Challenge grantees is comprised of 24 projects that span 19 states and two territories. This year’s group introduces Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia to the i6 Challenge portfolio, bringing the total number of states and territories receiving i6 Challenge program grants to 44. Communities receiving the i6 Challenge grant this year have committed over $20.6 million in local match to EDA’s $16 million investment.

Key to increasing regional entrepreneurial capacity is increasing entrepreneurial opportunity, and members of this 2018 cohort are working to close the “Entrepreneurship Opportunity Gap” by establishing or expanding programs to support traditionally underserved geographies and demographics. For example, the North Idaho College Venture Center aims to provide access to equipment, space, and programming to help entrepreneurs in rural North Idaho overcome costly product prototyping barriers and help startups reach the market. In Rhode Island, Social Enterprise Greenhouse is looking to open two new satellite offices in Northern and Southern Rhode Island to expand the state’s job-creating entrepreneurship ecosystem beyond the Providence metropolitan area to better serve all Rhode Island communities. In Puerto Rico, the Resiliency and Business Innovation Project is looking to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship as a path to economic recovery and resiliency after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Not just focusing on a single region, the Village Capital Ecosystem Mapping, Development, and Networking project aims to partner with ecosystem leaders in five key geographies to better address funding gaps and support entrepreneurs outside of traditional startup hubs. And looking beyond our borders, the Plymouth Rock Project wants to land high-growth, innovation-driven international startups—and the foreign direct investment and jobs that follow—in New England's technology innovation ecosystem.

Tracking nationwide trends, healthcare is a core theme in this year’s cohort. Projects include the Northern Kentucky Health Innovation Initiative to create more healthcare-focused businesses and innovation in the region and the expansion of the HSX MarketStreet platform to connect, attract and grow health data companies in the Philadelphia region. Meanwhile, the South Carolina Medical Device Alliance and the WearTech Research and Commercialization Center in Greater Phoenix are focusing on developing competitive medical device companies and wearable technologies, and the Indiana Connected Health IoT Lab is looking to develop innovative ideas and products to interconnect these technologies.

This cohort also builds capacity in sectors that support our national defense, whether directly through the expansion of the Maryland DefTech Center that enables startups to get new technologies into the hands of our warfighters, or indirectly by increasing food security through agtech with the launch of a new Global Food Systems Economic Prosperity Accelerator at Kansas State University. Both projects leverage regional cluster strengths to diversify and grow their local economies, and create new companies and jobs.

EDA is excited to invest in these and and to further its goal of promoting productivity and economic growth in the United States.

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