In yesterday’s posting on EDA and incubators, I noted that EDA needs to move beyond a focus on bricks and mortar. They understand that and last month, EDA, along with NIH and NSF, announced a new technology commercialization grant called the I6 Challenge:
The i6 Challenge is a new $12 million innovation competition administered by the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF). EDA will award up to $1 million to each of six winning teams with the most innovative ideas to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in their regions. NIH and NSF will award a total of up to $6M in supplemental funding to their SBIR grantees that are associated or partnered with the winning teams.
I especially like the fact that the program specifically ties into the SBIR program. This is a good way to leverage activities. Note however that this is not the same type of programs as the SBIR, which funds specific research activities. As the FAQs on the i6 program states:
The i6 Challenge is not a grant or award to fund commercialization of individual products or technologies. The goal of the i6 Challenge is to fund new ideas (proposals) that will promote or accelerate technology commercialization, and entrepreneurship with the ultimate goal of driving job creation and economic growth. We are looking for collaborative projects that have wide participation by various stakeholders (including universities, non-profit, for-profit, entrepreneurs, state/local governments, etc.). The challenge is intentionally designed to be non-prescriptive. The proposed projects should help to solve problems that impede within the technology commercialization process (i.e. from research to market) within a given region.
In other words, i6 is a program to build up technology commercialization capacity in a region — not a program to commercialize a specific technology.
Proposals are due July 15 and winners will be announced in the fall. Given the innovative nature of the program itself, I hope they make information available on some of the more interesting proposals — not just the winners. Sharing those ideas might end up being just as important as the actual funding of the winners.