Regional Commercialization Teams Will Compete for $500M in CHIPS Funding
Academic technology transfer programs from across the country are one step closer to getting a share of $500 million in federal funding authorized by the 2022 CHIPS and Science Act, now that 31 regional public-private collaborations have been named Tech Hubs by the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
The unveiling of the 31 Tech Hubs on October 23 marks the first phase of the new initiative, which aims to fuel regional innovation and job creation by strengthening a region’s capacity to manufacture, commercialize and deploy technology that will advance American competitiveness. Every Tech Hub includes at least one institution of higher education along with at least one entity from state and local government, industry, economic development and labor or workforce training; 10 Tech Hubs are led by universities.
For the Missouri University of Science and Technology, which leads the Critical Minerals and Materials for Advance Energy (CM2AE) Tech Hub, it’s a chance to write a new chapter in the school’s rich history in mining and material sciences innovation, which dates back to its founding in 1870 as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy.
“The opportunity for Missouri S&T to house the CM2AE Tech Hub has our office excited and looking forward to continuing this legacy and working with new and existing companies and partners,” said John E. Woodson, Associate Director of Technology Transfer and Economic Development at Missouri S&T. “This CM2AE will not only spur the creation of innovative technologies, but it will also grow Missouri’s economy, create more jobs and improve the United States’s ability to mine critical minerals.”
In the next phase, the Tech Hubs will compete for the $500 million appropriated by Congress to launch the program as part of the FY2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The Phase 2 notice of funding opportunity states that EDA plans to award five to 10 Strategy Implementation Grants of $50 million-$75 million each. The CHIPS statute authorized $10 billion for the program (then known as the Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs program) over five years, but additional funding rounds will depend on future Congressional appropriations.
EDA also awarded 29 Strategy Development Grants to help communities significantly increase local coordination and planning activities. Multiple Tech Hub designees also received these grants, which could make them more competitive for future Tech Hubs funding opportunities, according to the EDA announcement.
Because the Tech Hubs program is specifically intended to increase a region’s capacity for research commercialization rather than the capacity for basic research, tech transfer offices are likely to be key players in Tech Hub activities, and their experience forging productive tech-focused partnerships will be particularly valuable.
“The Tech Transfer Office’s strengths are its experience and expertise to harvest and protect intellectual property for the university and its partners, its rapport with inventors and its ability to work closely with sponsors and outside entities,” Woodson said. “That experience and expertise will mesh perfectly with the CM2AE Tech Hub.”
Tech transfer professionals’ skills in communicating the value of technology commercialization to prospective partners will also support Tech Hub efforts. Within the Texoma Semiconductor Tech Hub, led by Southern Methodist University, the Office of Technology Transfer will host roundtables where inventors, potential investors and industry leaders can discuss semiconductor manufacturing, supply chain and other upstream and downstream technologies, according to Marco Marchetti, SMU Director of Technology Transfer.
And those connections are likely to benefit SMU’s tech transfer efforts beyond the Tech Hub program, Marchetti said.
“The opportunity to work closely with different industry partners helps us expose research and faculty to individuals from a broad range of companies,” he said. “Such exposure helps establish relationships that can branch out to other companies whose commercial focus relates to the available suite of SMU inventions.”