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January 15, 2024 | Tom Ballard

SBA opens application portal for its “2024 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition”

Stage One offers $50,000 in cash prizes to organizations for ecosystem-building activities, including recruitment of new partners and strengthening existing alliances among stakeholders.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced the opening of the “2024 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition” (GAFC) that offers $50,000 to $200,000 in prize awards in two stages to organizations to join SBA’s national innovation support ecosystem effort to advance small business research and development (R&D) from ideas to market.  The Stage One application portal opened last week for five weeks, and the SBA will award up to $3 million in Stage One prize money by April.

According to the SBA news release, Stage One offers $50,000 in cash prizes to organizations for ecosystem-building activities, including recruitment of new partners and strengthening existing alliances among stakeholders (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 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (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 three 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, and 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, and Other Supply Chain, Infrastructure, and Manufacturing Technologies; and
  • 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, and 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 start-ups 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.

SBA is also holding two information webinars to support potential Stage One applicants. The webinars are free and open to the public.

  • GAFC Pre-Application Webinar: Goals, rules, and how to apply is set for 2 p.m. EST January 16. To register, click here.
  • GAFC Theme Explanation Webinar that will be a deep-dive into the tech themes with experts from relevant federal agencies set for 2 p.m. EST January 31. To register, click here.

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