Today's Date: May 22, 2024
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Small Business Grants Expand Opportunities

 WASHIINGTON – SBA Administrator Karen Mills has announced the U.S. Small 
Business Administration’s support for 10 regional economic development and 
job creation efforts through a new pilot program, “Innovative Economies.”

The pilot program supports small businesses participation in regional 
economic “clusters” – collaborations between small businesses, the public 
sector, economic development and other organizations. 

“Maximizing a region’s economic assets is one of the best ways to create long 
term job growth, and that’s what SBA’s new Innovative Economies pilot 
initiative is doing,” Mills said. “Today we are announcing funding support for 
10 regional economic clusters. SBA’s support will help expand the 
opportunities and the role small businesses play in these regional 
collaborations, which are enhancing the ability to create jobs locally and 
compete on a national and global scale.”

The 10 “Innovative Economies” awardees selected from among 173 applicants 
to participate in the pilot program represent a wide range of diverse 
geographic areas and industries. From urban to rural and clean energy to 
robotics, the applicants focused on leading research and commercializing new 
products. 

SBA’s funding will be provided to each cluster’s organizing entity to strengthen 
opportunities for small businesses within the cluster. The funds can be used 
to provide services, including mentoring and counseling small businesses, as 
well as to attract more small business participation. 

SBA is supporting two types of innovative economies: Regional Innovation 
Clusters and Advanced Defense Technologies. The seven Regional Innovation 
Clusters focus on providing business training, commercialization and technology 
transfer services, counseling, mentoring and other services that support the 
growth and development of small businesses in the cluster region. 

The SBA also worked with the U.S. Department of Defense to identify areas 
around the country where regional innovation clusters can help meet critical 
defense technology needs. Three Advanced Defense Technology awardees 
will focus on providing business training, counseling, mentoring, matchmaking 
and other services to small businesses that focus on critical DoD 
technologies. 

The 10 Innovative Economies Include: 

Agriculture Innovation Cluster (Monterey – Santa Cruz – San Benito, Calif.) 
The AIC focus is on agricultural innovation, including production, related 
physical and human capital infrastructure, and leading-edge agriculture 
research.

Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster (N.C., S.C.) The Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster provides 
strategy, structure, and on-the-ground execution to grow the North and 
South Carolina businesses that serve the nuclear energy industry locally, 
regionally, and multi-nationally. 

Connecticut Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition (Conn., N.Y., Mass., Maine, Vt., N.H., 
R.I.) The Connecticut Hydrogen-Fuel Cell Coalition/Cluster, administered by the 
Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, works to enhance economic 
growth by developing, manufacturing, and deploying fuel cell and hydrogen 
technologies and associated fueling systems.

Enterprise for Innovative Geospatial Solutions (Miss., La.) EIGS organizes 
complimentary geospatial businesses, government agencies, and educational 
institutions in Mississippi and the Louisiana Gulf Coast to help create a trained 
workforce, transfer geospatial technology from public institutions into the 
market, and foster new business growth. Geospatial technology is the 
combination of GPS (global positioning systems), GIS (geographical information 
systems), and satellite or aerial image-based remote sensing.

Illinois Smart Grid Regional Innovation Cluster (Ill.) The ISG-RIC is a 
collaboration of more than 100 entities (including 70 businesses) in the 
Chicago region, focused on the acceleration of Smart Grid innovation, 
deployments, and new market development. The Smart Grid is a convergence 
of technological and investment interests across multiple sectors, focused on 
using advanced technology to improve inefficient and outdated electric 
transmission infrastructure.

NorTech (Ohio) NorTech focuses on technology-based economic development 
in 21 counties of Northeast Ohio. Funds will help small business development 
within NorTech’s FlexMatters initiative, which focuses on advanced energy and 
flexible electronics. Flexible electronics, which are electronic devices printed 
on flexible substrates, are emerging as a newly commercializable science, and 
a growing manufacturing opportunity. 

Upper Michigan Green Aviation Coalition (UMi-GAC) (Mich.) The Upper Michigan 
Green Aviation Coalition is a public-private partnership with 41 active 
members, focused on expanding the green aviation industry. 

Defense Alliance of Minnesota (Minn., N.D., S.D., Wis.) The Defense Alliance of 
Minnesota connects high technology innovation to defense industry 
opportunities and accelerating technology transfer of R&D and into commercial 
markets. 

San Diego Advanced Defense Cluster (San Diego, Calif.) The San Diego 
Advanced Defense Cluster focuses on autonomous systems and cyber 
security, as well as other technologies applicable to defense needs.

Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation (Huntsville, Ala.) VCSI’s primary 
focus is Aero-Space technology with applications for NASA, DoD, and NOAA. 
Its projects have included robotics for the detection of Improvised Explosive 
Devices, supporting spacecraft launches and building new micro satellites.


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