The Department of Commerce’s (DoC) Economic Development Administration (EDA) officially launched the first funding opportunity today for its Tech Hubs program, inviting applicants to apply for some of the $500 million available.

The Tech Hubs program – authorized as part of the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act – aims to develop clusters of businesses, communities, higher education institutions, and workers focused on accelerating innovation and technology deployment across America.

Today’s first Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) opens applications for the first phase of the program, which will designate promising Tech Hubs and provide planning grants to accelerate their development. The application deadline is August 15.

Later this year, DoC will launch a second NOFO for the designated Tech Hubs to apply for strategy implementation funding to help them reach their full potential.

“The Tech Hubs program is a critical piece of President Biden’s Investing in America strategy, and will help us create ecosystems of innovation to strengthen economic opportunity in communities around the country that have historically been overlooked,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

“We’re going to do that by supercharging our existing innovation foundations, bringing together our premier research institutions with world-class companies to create good-paying jobs in these communities, and ensuring the technological advances that define the next century are made in communities across America,” Raimondo added.

In a call with reporters, Raimondo detailed what the program would look like on a practical level for a city or region considering an application.

She explained that applicants need to bring together the area’s top companies, research institutions, local governments, and other stakeholders to apply for a Tech Hub grant.

Applicants need to select a technology industry to focus on that fits under the list of Ten Key Focus Areas identified within the Tech Hubs statute. These areas include AI, high-performance computing, biotechnology, and quantum information science and technology, among others.

If selected, Raimondo said the program would then take that region from being “a player” in the tech industry to “being a global leader.”

For example, if a region was a player in the medical device industry, Raimondo said Tech Hubs would help it become “a global leader in research, development, and commercialization and talent development in the medical device industry.”

“I could not be more excited about it, and I’m excited to see proposals,” the secretary told reporters. “There’s a massive amount of interest from Capitol Hill on this. If that interest is a guide, I expect that we will be oversubscribed quickly by incredibly high-quality applications.”

In this first phase, DoC expects to designate at least 20 Tech Hubs across the country. In the second phase, a DoC official told reporters that they expect approximately five to 10.

The CHIPS and Science Act authorized $10 billion for the Tech Hubs. In December 2022, President Biden signed the FY 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act into law, providing $500 million for the program.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo told reporters that DoC views the $500 million as “a downpayment” for the program.

“This is our first run at this. The goal here is to make sure that we set ourselves for success,” Castillo said. “We are hoping that Congress will provide us with additional funds – as you know, President Biden has asked for $4 billion for Tech Hubs in the FY 24 budget – and our goal is to make sure that we continue to work with regions across the country.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.