On May 10, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s (DOC) Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced that the agency is now accepting applications for two grant opportunities under EDA’s Regional Innovations Strategies (RIS) program for FY 2017. The RIS program, first authorized in 1980 under the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act (15 U.S.C. § 3722), provides grants to help generate local and regional innovation and economic growth. Within the RIS program, a total of $17 million will be made available through the “i6 Challenge” and the Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grant competition to help local communities generate breakthroughs in capacity-building, spur innovation and translate these innovations into jobs for local communities.
The Regional Innovations Strategies (RIS) program will channel funding into two sub-programs. The larger of the two, named the “i6 Challenge”, will distribute $13 million to help entrepreneurs create new jobs through state and local government partnerships. This program seeks to expand funding for existing grants to promote research, innovation and intellectual property that generate services and jobs for communities.
The remaining $4 million will be allocated to the Seed Fund Support (SFS) grant competition, which provides funding to young businesses seeking capital to bring their service or product to market. The SFS grants provide funding to “support planning, formation, launch, or scale of cluster-based seed funds… for potential high growth.” Eligible applicants include state, county, local and tribal governments, institutions of higher education and nonprofits that do not have a 501(c)(3) status. Applications to the RIS program are available online until June 23.
Additionally, on May 11, EDA announced that $600,000 will be made available under a separate program, the International Engagement Ready Communities Competition, to generate foreign direct investment (FDI) with the goal of promoting economic development in local communities. Through the International Engagement Ready Communities competition, the DOC seeks to help communities and business grow their representation on a global scale. To help communities achieve this goal, the EDA, along with SelectUSA and the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), will create a toolkit to help communities increase their eligibility for FDI to become globally competitive. Eligible organizations include state, local and tribal governments, educational organizations and other public or private associations. Applications for these funds may be completed online until June 12.
NACo supports free trade activities and federal grants that strengthen the economic base of local governments and foster innovation on a local level. We will continue to monitor grant availability announcements that will strengthen local communities.