The US Economic Development Administration (EDA) is funding developing tech hubs — aka regions that are expected to become “globally competitive innovation centers” in about 10 years.
The new $10 billion Tech Hubs Program, part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, will by fall select at least 20 regions in the US to be designated as tech hubs, a definition the EDA developed with the help of public input. Those designated tech hubs will get access to dedicated federal funding opportunities.
The program has two phases.
In Phase 1, for which applications opened on May 12, regions can apply for tech hub designation alone, or to receive a strategy development grant from a $15 million pool to advance their tech hub development, or both designation and a development grant.
In Phase 2, only those regions designated as a tech hub during Phase 1 can apply for an “implementation awards.” The EDA will award at least five of these awards.
What kind of region might be a good fit for the program?
To start, they’re not the San Francisco Bay Area, Southern California, or the Northeast region encompassing New York and Boston.
“America leads the world in technological innovation,” said US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo in a Thursday press conference on Zoom. “But the sad reality is that our tech ecosystem is extremely concentrated. In fact, more than 80% of all US ventures are invested in three regions of the country. These areas have incredible talent supply … but they don’t have a monopoly on the best ideas, the best research or the best entrepreneurs.”
Since this is connected with the CHIPS and Science Act, which is focused on developing and manufacturing semiconductors in the US, these tech hubs aren’t necessarily places that have a lot of Big Tech presence. Promising regions may have several universities with technology researchers, STEM startups that work with semiconductors and nonprofit workforce training programs that could be used for semiconductor manufacturing training.
For Phase 1, just announced and launched, applications will be accepted through Aug. 15. Applications must be made by an eligible consortium, which can include academia, private sector, government and unions.
“Nobody should have to leave their family or support system or network to move to New York or San Francisco to get a good job,” Castillo said. “Tech hubs will allow Americans to pursue major careers in leading technology fields, right where they live.”
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