The Obama administration recently announced a $26 million competition to encourage the development of creative, job-enhancing projects. The contest is sponsored by fourteen federal departments and foundations, including the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The competition, called the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, is a federally-funded program that will award grants to approximately twelve winning projects. Applicants are encouraged to devise innovative approaches for increasing American manufacturers’ competency abroad while creating jobs at home.

SBA administrator Karen Mills believes the competition is “an opportunity to build on the momentum we’re seeing in U.S. manufacturing and to support small businesses and local economies through regional innovation clusters.”

According to the Brookings Institution, regional clusters are the best way to generate more jobs, rather than “poaching” them from elsewhere: “Properly designed, cluster strategies are a low-cost way to stimulate innovation, new-firm start-ups, and job creation by helping to link and align the many factors that influence firm and regional growth.”

The Obama administration has already invested over $200 million in the promotion of regional innovation clusters, believing that an American economy built to last will depend on American manufacturing, American energy and skills for American workers.

The slogan “Made in America” has gained strength in the face of large-scale outsourcing of jobs by U.S. manufacturers to countries like China and India. The idea behind the Challenge is to fuel ideas for growing the economy by “building things here and selling them everywhere,” according to U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Bryson.

Competition sponsors hope to strengthen regionally-driven efforts at innovative economic strategies by assisting in the development and implementation of creative projects that support advanced manufacturing clusters. Interagency judges will consider each proposed project’s ability to develop a skilled and diverse workforce, increase exports, and encourage the development of small businesses.

The administration hopes that by creating more opportunities for public-private partnerships, the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge will enhance U.S. global competitiveness and create high-quality sustainable jobs in the United States.

The deadline for applications is July 9, 2012. Guidelines for submissions can be obtained from the Small Business Administration website.


“Obama Administration Launches $26 Million Multi-Agency Competition to Strengthen Advanced Manufacturing Clusters Across the Nation.” May 29, 2012.

“Jobs and Innovation: Accelerator Challenge.”

“Job Creation on a Budget: How Regional Industry Clusters Can Add Jobs, Bolster Entrepreneurship, and Spark Innovation.” The Brookings Institution. Jan 19, 2011.

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