Regional innovation clusters are based on a simple but critical idea: if we foster coordination between the private sector and the public sector to build on the unique strengths of different regions - while creating the incentives for them to do so - we will be better equipped to marshall the knowledge and resources that America needs to compete in the global economy.
The $33 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge that the Obama Administration announced yesterday will help capitalize on shared strengths, encouraging America's regions to plan more strategically to support long-term growth and an environment where the private sector can succeed. It reflects an understanding by both private sector leaders and policymakers that we must implement strategies that capitalize on the full extent of regional assets and ensure that the benefits of cluster development extend to all workers and communities throughout the region.
Sixteen federal agencies are working together on this unprecedented initiative to drive job growth through public-private partnerships in at least 20 regions around the country. High-growth clusters from rural and urban regions across the nation will compete for award funds. Each Challenge investment will serve as a catalyst for leveraging additional private capital to the winning regions from sources including foundations, financial institutions, corporations and other private-sector partners.
The Innovation Accelerator Challenge represents the Obama Administration's commitment to accelerate the development of strong industry clusters - like the Research Triangle in North Carolina - that promote robust economic ecosystems and the development of a skilled workforce, both of which are critical to long-term regional success. We're looking to be a catalyst for regional clusters that can:
Promote sustainable economic growth in the region;
Support business formation, especially of small businesses, while leveraging existing businesses' assets;
Advance commercialization of federal and private research;
Develop a skilled workforce through outreach, training, and the creation of career pathways, and;
Integrate historically underserved businesses and communities into the economic activities of the cluster.
This cluster announcement reflects another important goal of the Obama Administration - to streamline government while maximizing resources. Applicants will submit ONE application, instead of multiple applications to several agencies, cutting down on costs and time. Awardees will receive funds in a coordinated, integrated manner that is more efficient and predictable. When President Obama was elected, he promised to change the way government does business. The Accelerator and 40 other innovation cluster projects that were awarded in FY 2010 reflect his commitment to deliver on his promise.
As President Obama said during a Winning the Future forum in February, "This cluster concept is so important...When you get a group of people together, and industries together, and institutions like universities together around particular industries, then the synergies that develop from all those different facets coming together can make the whole greater than the sum of its parts."
Find details on this funding opportunity  here.