Government launches $26 million innovation challenge

The federal government is launching a $26 million challenge to manufacturers to foster innovation and job creation through public-private partnerships.

The hope is the challenge will help entice private capital to projects that oculd promote cluster-based development in regions across the United States. The government wants to build on the momentum within the manufacturing sector, adding to the 489,000 manufacturing jobs created since January 2010.

“The Accelerator Challenge is one way the federal government is helping to support the manufacturing industry, a vital source of middle-class jobs,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The innovative products developed as a result of this federal grant program will help our economy maintain its global competitive advantage, while also creating jobs at home.”

Manufacturing accounts for 70 percent of private-sector research and development money, and 60 percent of U.S. exports – including a record $1.2 trillion in goods exported in 2011. During the past 25 months, manufacturers have created nearly half a million jobs – the best streak since 1995.

About 12 projects will be chosen through a competitive inter-agency grant process. Applicants are being asked to submit proposals that will help grow a region’s industry clusters by strengthening connections to regional economic development opportunities and advanced manufacturing assets; enhance a region’s capacity to create high-quality sustainable jobs; develop a skilled and diverse advanced manufacturing workforce; increase exports; encourage the development of small businesses; and accelerate technological innovation.

The deadline for applications is July 9, 2012, and guidelines for submissions are accessible here.

This is the third round of the competition, which is being paid for by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Department of Energy; the U.s. Department of Labor and Employment Training Administration, the Small Business Administration and the National Science Foundation.