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About the Clusters Initiative
The U.S. Small Business Administration is investing in regional innovation clusters throughout the US that span a variety of industries, ranging from energy and manufacturing to advanced defense technologies.
“Clusters are public-private partnerships that are driving innovation and job creation in our most promising regional hubs for innovation. We’ve built a strategic infrastructure of financing and consulting networks in key cities to help new companies launch and small companies grow. We’re unleashing the full potential of entrepreneurs who are developing cutting-edge products and processes that will help ensure American global competiveness.”
--SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet
The Clusters Initiative connects and enhances innovation assets so that small businesses can effectively leverage them to commercialize new technologies and expand into new markets, thereby positioning themselves and their regional economies for growth.
Clusters are geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, academic institutions, service providers and associated organizations with a specific industry focus. They provide high-value, targeted connecting of small and large businesses, including networking with potential industry partners abroad.
Clusters form strong partnerships between universities and private industry, facilitating technology transfer and commercialization of new technology. Clusters can play a critical role in meeting innovation needs in sectors such as energy or defense faster and cheaper than traditional procurement processes.
The map below shows the names and locations of the more than 40 clusters in which SBA is investing, the majority of which represent a collaborative funding opportunity among several Federal agencies. A list of the clusters can be found here. Small businesses interested in participating in a cluster can also refer to the map below for more information about a cluster's area of focus and the region in which it is concentrating its efforts.
SBA Invests in Over 40 Clusters
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. Read more
SBA Supports Clusters Across the US Learn more
Year Three Evaluation of SBA’s Regional Innovation Cluster Initiative
SBA funded a third-party evaluator to examine SBA’s Regional Innovation Clusters in detail, including their various stakeholder participants and the services and activities provided by the clusters, with a focus on small business participants.
The third report, published in July 2014, evaluates the outcomes observed during the third year of the initiative, including the employment, revenue, and payroll of the small businesses as well as their ability to spur innovation and obtain financing. Furthermore, the report analyzes the regional economic impact of the economic activity of the clusters’ small business participants.
Three Key Highlights and Outcomes from Year Three Evaluation Report:
- Small businesses see the value of SBA’s Cluster Initiatives. The number of small business cluster participants increased over 500 percent during the first three years of the Initiative.
In Year 3 alone:
- Clusters reported an average increase of 43% in the number of small business participants;
- 88% of cluster participants reported they could not obtain similar services from other providers;
- 80% of participants agree that cluster activities led to increases in collaborative activity within their region; and
- Cluster administrators provided more than 13,000 hours of one-on-one assistance to more than 460 small businesses, with recipient small businesses receiving an average of nearly 29 hours each.
- Cluster participation helps small businesses foster innovation and enhance economic activity. The value of economic activity reported for the third year of the Initiative totaled more than $3.9 billion based on:
- More than $42 million in capital, through private funding sources, such as loans, venture capital, and angel capital;
- More than $13 million in early stage investment from federal SBIR and STTR awards;
- More than $7 million in grants;
- Approximately $3 billion in contracts or subcontracts won by small businesses; and
- Additionally, small businesses reported filing 181 patent applications and receiving 112 patents during the third year of the Initiative.
- Cluster participation is associated with growth in small-business jobs, revenue, and monthly payroll. Over the course of three years of evaluation, cluster participant growth exceeded growth in comparable firms in the same regions and industries.
- Employment in cluster-associated small businesses grew an average of 6.9%, more than 4 times faster than the regional benchmark.
- Revenues in cluster-associated small businesses increased an average of 6.9%, nearly twice as fast as comparable firms.
- Payrolls in cluster-associated small businesses increased an average of 14.1%, more than 4 times faster than related firms that did not participate in clusters.
Links to Full Impact Reports by Year:
- Year 1 (Released June 2012)
- Year 2 (Released June 2013)
- Year 3 (Released July 2014, Revised November 2014)
- Department of Commerce's (DOC's) Economic Development Administration (EDA)
- Department of Commerce's (DOC's) National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST's) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)
- Department of Energy's (DOE's) Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO)
- Department of Labor's (DOL's) Employment and Training Administration (ETA)
Media Coverage of SBA's Cluster Initiative
- A Cluster of Clusters: Where the SBA Is Investing in Regional Economies
- Clusters topic on Entreneur.com
- Regional Innovation Clusters Begin to Add Up
- This Kind of Cluster Could Actually Help Business
- Economic Cluster Policy Begins to Work