Press release 24-02

SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Opens Jan. 8 to Expand and Strengthen its National Innovation Ecosystem

Organizations will compete in two stages for $50,000 to $200,000 in prizes; SBA to award up to $3 Million in Stage One Prizes

WASHINGTON– Today,  Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the voice in President Biden’s Cabinet for America’s more than 33 million small businesses and startups, announced the opening of the 2024 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC). The competition offers $50,000 to $200,000 in prize awards in two stages to organizations to join SBA’s national innovation support ecosystem to advance small business research and development (R&D) from ideas to market. The Stage One application portal opens on Jan. 8 for five weeks, and the SBA will award up to $3 million in Stage One prize money by April.

“The SBA is committed to advancing America’s global leadership in innovation across critical industries by supporting entrepreneurs as they launch, grow, and manufacture across the country,” said SBA Administrator Guzman. “The SBA’s 10-year strong Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) strengthens the nation’s innovation ecosystem and builds local partnerships critical to ensuring all of America’s great ideas can thrive through the vast resources available through the federal government.” 

Prizes Awarded in Two Stages

Stage One offers $50,000 in cash prizes awarded to organizations for ecosystem-building activities, including recruitment of new partners, and strengthening existing alliances among stakeholders (including public, private, non-profit, and academic partners). Contestants work collaboratively with chosen partners to bring additional resources, deepen network connections, and develop strategies to support STEM/R&D-focused entrepreneurs and small businesses. The SBA welcomes Stage One submissions from a broad range of organizations with a collaborative vision to nurture a national ecosystem for equitable access to entrepreneurship. Applicants are asked to align their application with one of the following GAFC Theme Areas:

National and Economic Security, including but not limited to: 

  • National Security and Defense 
  • Artificial Intelligence  
  • Microelectronics 
  • Advanced Computing and Software  
  • Quantum Computing 
  • Human-Machine Interfaces 
  • Other Critical and Emerging Technologies 

Domestic Manufacturing and Production, including but not limited to: 

  • Advanced Manufacturing R&D 
  • Supply Chain Resiliency 
  • Critical and Resilient Infrastructure 
  • AgTech and Agricultural Innovation 
  • Other Supply Chain, Infrastructure, and Manufacturing Technologies 

Sustainability and Biotechnology, including but not limited to

  • Energy and Sustainability 
  • Biotechnology 
  • Climate and Environment 
  • Public Health 
  • Renewable Energy Generation and Storage 
  • Electric Vehicles 
  • Blue Economy 
  • Other Climate, Energy, and Life Science Technologies

Stage Two of the competition offers an additional $50,000 to $150,000 in cash prizes to eligible Stage One winners to provide direct assistance to entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups that are looking to commercialize their innovation, from R&D to the commercial market. SBA intends to announce winners for Stage Two by September. A federal agency partner may also elect to provide a bonus prize to one or more Stage One contestants focused on a priority area of the agency partner’s choice. Bonus prize winners are awarded from the pool of Stage One contestants.

 “This year’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition builds on the success of last year’s competition, which successfully catalyzed bonds between local and national innovation ecosystem support networks. The competition Theme Areas aim to foster emerging partnerships around key innovation sectors. The prize awards will support entrepreneurs operating in undercapitalized and underserved markets with valuable resources in America’s innovation ecosystem,” said Bailey DeVries, Associate Administrator for SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation.

To access the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Guidelines and Application Portal, please visit

Two information webinars will be held to support potential Stage One applicants. The webinars are free and open to the public. 

If you are interested in being a judge for the Growth Accelerator Competition, please fill out the following interest form: Judges are unpaid volunteers and are screened for conflict of interest and schedule conflicts before selection.




About SBA Office of Investment and Innovation

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Investment and Innovation (OII) leads programs that provide the high-growth small business community with access to two things: financial capital and R&D funds to develop commercially viable innovations. Our work is underpinned by public-private partnerships that help small businesses on their trajectory from idea to IPO. Learn more at

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration makes the American dream of business ownership a reality.  As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow, or expand their businesses or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. Learn more at

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