Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
June 10, 2020 | Tom Ballard

EDA finalizing details of new “Coronavirus Entrepreneurship and Innovation Challenge”

The State Science and Technology Institute, better known as SSTI, joined with the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) for a webinar on Tuesday that focused on the federal agency’s funding opportunities related to recovery from COVID-19.

During about one-half of the 60-minute session, three EDA officials discussed various aspects of the $1.5 billion allocation that the agency received as part of the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.” The balance of the program featured a Q&A session with participants.

My big takeaway from the discussion was a new program for which guidelines are still being developed, so details were very limited. The title, however, should be intriguing to many of our readers – “Coronavirus Entrepreneurship and Innovation Challenge.”

Craig Buerstatte, Director of EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said it will be a roughly $25 million program. “We are working hard (on the final guidelines), and it is forthcoming soon, I hope,” he told attendees.

The new initiative is expected to focus on areas like: (1) biotechnology, health security, and supply chain innovation; (2) regional, national and governmental connectivity such as more collaborative efforts across jurisdictions as well as facilitating partnerships between inventors and those who could benefit from their ideas; (3) innovation and entrepreneurship more broadly defined; and (4) access to capital.

Buerstatte was the third presenter. In comments before he announced the new program, Joel Frushone, Director of EDA’s Office of External Affairs and Communications, reminded attendees of the eligibility guidelines for the agency’s grants as well as special conditions attached to COVID-19 funds.

EDA is well-known as a key funding source for economic development, aka job creation projects for state and local governments. Other eligible recipients of its funding include institutions of higher education and both public and private non-profit entities.

In addition to its normal eligibility criteria, there are also specific additional conditions attached to the coronavirus-related programs. Frushone emphasized that applicants must check two boxes: (1) document economic injury as a result of COVID-19; and (2) show how the funding with “prevent, prepare for or respond” to coronavirus challenges.