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SBA Invests in Over 40 Clusters Throughout the US

In the fall of 2010, SBA funded its initial three clusters in collaboration with the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and several other agencies.  These clusters are located in the Greater Philadelphia region, Florida, and Ohio.

Also in the fall of 2010, through an open competition, SBA funded 10 pilot clusters selected from among 173 applicants. The 2010 pilot clusters program represents a wide range of diverse geographic areas and industries and focus on leading research and commercializing new products.   SBA’s funding was provided to each cluster’s organizing entity to increase opportunities for small business participation within the clusters, promote innovation in the industries on which the ten clusters are focused, and enhance regional economic development and growth.  These clusters rely on the region-specific strengths of the private sector, the skilled labor associated with that sector, and the specializations of the regional and/or national research community.

Three of the clusters, termed Advanced Defense Technology clusters, are specifically focused on meeting the needs of the defense industry, while the remaining seven, termed Regional Innovation Clusters, focus on innovative and leading technologies in a variety of industry areas.  All ten clusters support small businesses by fostering a synergistic network of small and large businesses, university researchers, regional economic organizations, stakeholders, and investors, while providing matchmaking, business training, counseling, mentoring, and other services to help small businesses expand and grow.

In June 2012, SBA released a year-one Evaluation Report of the ten pilot clusters. This report examines the ten clusters in detail, including their various stakeholder participants and the services and activities provided by the clusters, with a focus on small business participants. Furthermore, the report analyzes initial outcomes observed during the first year of the initiative, including the employment, revenue, and payroll of small business participants as well as their ability to spur innovation and obtain financing.

In September 2011, the Obama Administration launched the  Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge a first-of-its-kind inter-agency initiative to accelerate job creation and economic prosperity through public-private partnerships.  The Accelerator Challenge offered a combination of $37 million in funding from three agencies -- the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, and the SBA -- and technical support resources from 13 additional agencies and bureaus, to support 20 competitively-selected industry clusters in urban and rural regions across the nation.  SBA’s funding is aimed at providing technical and management assistance to disadvantaged and underserved businesses to get the tools they need to grow and create jobs.

In the spring of 2012, the SBA joined a second multi-agency cluster initiative, the Rural Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, aimed at bolstering job creation and economic growth in embattled rural communities.  Launched in March 2012, the Rural Accelerator Challenge offers a combination of $15 million in funding from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Delta Regional Authority, and the Appalachian Regional Commission, and technical support from nine additional agencies.  Although not a funding agency, SBA is participating in this initiative by providing technical support.

In early May, 2012, the Administration launched the third round of the Jobs Accelerator Challenge aimed at enhancing the competitive position of U.S. manufacturers in the global marketplace and delivering targeted solutions to accelerate innovation by strengthening U.S. advanced manufacturing capabilities in key industries.  The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge provided a total of $20M across 10 projects selected through a competitive multi-agency grant process to support the development of advanced manufacturing in high-growth industry clusters.  This initiative is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the National Science Foundation.

As with the original Jobs Accelerator initiative, SBA’s funding for the Advanced Manufacturing initiative is aimed at providing technical and management assistance to disadvantaged and underserved businesses, to include business training and counseling, commercialization of R&D, export readiness, international and domestic marketing, and exposure to the subject industry.  The funded projects will also focus on connecting small businesses with large corporations’ supply chains, increasing technology/product transfer from laboratory to marketplace, increasing adoption of new technologies or processes, matching small businesses with larger ones to provide mentoring and identify business-to-business opportunities, and strengthening supply chains.