In August 2022, the Chips and Science Act—a massive, $280 billion bill to boost public and private sector investments in critical and emerging technologies—became law. We followed the bill from the beginning and anticipated significant opportunities for industry to inform and influence the direction of the new law’s programs.
One such opportunity is available now. The U.S. Department of Commerce recently published a request for information (RFI) “to inform the planning and design of the Regional Technology and Innovation Hub (Tech Hubs) program.” The public comment period ends March 16, 2023.
The Chips and Science Act authorized $10 billion for the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish a Regional Technology and Innovation Hub (Tech Hubs) program. Specifically, Commerce was charged with designating at least 20 Tech Hubs and awarding grants to consortia composed of one or more institutions of higher education, political subdivisions, state governments, and “industry or firms in relevant technology, innovation, or manufacturing sectors” to develop and deploy critical technologies in those hubs. $500 million has already been made available for the program, and Commerce will administer the program through the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
Commerce’s RFI provides important insight on how the Administration is thinking about the Tech Hubs. The RFI characterizes the program as an “economic development initiative” and suggests that the purpose of the program is to drive technology and innovation and create jobs. Stakeholders interested in influencing and applying for the program should keep this framing in mind.
The RFI also provides high-level information about how the agency plans to approach the Tech Hubs grant-making process. It states “EDA intends to run a rigorous, fair, and evidence-driven competition” informed by stakeholders and “to aim for the strongest geographic and demographic diversity among hubs.”
Commerce’s RFI includes 22 specific questions across three categories: hub characteristics, program design, and program administration.
- Tech Hubs Characteristics: The questions in this section focus on factors EDA should consider as it designates Tech Hubs and key performance indicators of successful Tech Hubs.
- Tech Hubs Program Design: The questions in this section focus on how the program should be structured, funded, and supported now and over time.
- Tech Hubs Administration: The questions in this section also focus on key performance indicators of successful Tech Hubs, as well as how EDA can best continue to engage with stakeholders to inform the implementation of the program.
This RFI represents a significant opportunity for stakeholders to inform and influence the structure and administration the Tech Hubs program. Companies, universities, non-profits, think tanks, and other stakeholders interested in influencing or participating in the program and companies generally involved in the research, development, and commercialization of critical technologies should strongly consider participating in this public comment opportunity.