U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced Wednesday at St. Petersburg College the launch of a $25 million national grant competition.
The competition, called the Scaling Pandemic Resilience Through Innovation and Technology (SPRINT) Challenge, will be funded by the CARES Act through the Department’s Economic Development Administration. The goal to of the grant is to support America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and future pandemics through innovation and entrepreneurship.
“The Trump administration is counting on our nation’s innovators to help our county through COVID-19 and beyond,” Ross said.
Those who are eligible to apply include local governments up to the state level, public and private non-profits, higher education institutes and Economic Development Districts.
Applicants are expected to lay out a clear strategy to leverage grant funds to support pandemic response, prevention and preparation. These include scaling biotechnology, health security, improving connectivity developing unique investment models to address the financial needs of entrepreneurs and new solutions for remote work.
As for who the Department is hoping the grant will help, Ross listed three main targets: women, minorities and Native American groups.
“This is really seed money,” Ross said. “As for who we hope it will help, women…only 12% of all inventions are made by women, minority groups also tend to be underrepresented.”
The amount of each grant will be awarded based on the span of performance — up to $500,000 for a 12-month period of performance and up to $750,000 for an 18-month period.
The EDA has launched 780 CARES recovery assistance projects across the country so far. Florida has been the recipient of 16 of those grants, worth a total of $11.2 million.
Linda Olson, president of non-profit Tampa Bay Wave, a hub for local tech and entrepreneurial startup activity, spoke at the presentation about the need for entrepreneurship amidst the pandemic.
“Something COVID-19 has taught us is that innovation matters now more than ever,” Olson said.
Applications are due by Dec. 3, and awards will be distributed February through March.