On Monday, the U.S. Commerce Department announced the selection of 31 regional technology hubs out of a pool of 370 applicants. These chosen regions will be eligible for $500 million in federal funding aimed at fostering innovation across various industries.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo explained that the program’s goal is to shift the focus away from the traditional tech hubs in the United States, such as Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Boston. She emphasized that these tech ecosystems are primarily concentrated in a limited number of areas across the country and do not fully represent the nation’s potential. In her words, they do not monopolize the market for groundbreaking ideas.
This initiative aligns with President Joe Biden’s conviction that the government should provide financial support to bolster pivotal sectors, with the aim of attracting increased private sector investments in areas such as electric vehicle battery manufacturing, semiconductor production, and clean energy.
Lael Brainard, the White House National Economic Director, expressed that the regional tech program represents a strategic approach of making prudent public investments in essential technologies across all regions of the country.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration unveiled a plan to allocate $7 billion to seven “hydrogen hubs” spread across 16 states, with the goal of catalyzing the growth of the burgeoning hydrogen industry.
These selected regional technology hubs are located in regions such as Montana, Wisconsin, upstate New York, Vermont, Nevada, Illinois, and Puerto Rico. They are primarily centered on various sectors, including semiconductors, clean energy, critical minerals, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing.
Raimondo emphasized that individuals should not be compelled to relocate in search of good employment opportunities, especially considering that many of these hubs are situated in smaller cities.
One hub, located in the states of Washington and Idaho, is dedicated to the development of new materials for more fuel-efficient next-generation aircraft. Meanwhile, another hub in Oklahoma is focused on the commercialization of autonomous systems, particularly in applications like agriculture and pipeline inspections. A program in Wisconsin aims to advance personalized medicine.
It’s worth noting that being designated as a hub does not guarantee the receipt of federal funding. Secretary Raimondo disclosed that the administration intends to grant approximately five to ten of the 31 tech hubs up to $75 million each in the coming year.
In August 2022, Congress approved $500 million for the program as part of the significant “Chips and Science” legislation, which allocated $52 billion for U.S. semiconductor production and research to enhance competitiveness with China.
This year, President Biden has requested $4 billion from Congress to fund additional regional tech hubs. However, a full-year budget for the current fiscal year has not yet been approved by Congress.
Reported by David Shepardson; Edited by Jamie Freed.