Supporting Innovation: A Role for Business
Also in Issue 1, Volume 5:
Supporting Innovation: A Role for Business
By 4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on May 12, over 1,600 applicants had hit the “send” button on their computers, officially entering their proposals into the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition and hoping to receive a share of $650 million provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Toward the end of the summer, a much smaller number of applicants will be informed that their proposal will be funded – but only if they can secure a 20 percent matching commitment from the private sector – a commitment that wasn’t required in order to submit an application.
Thus far, foundations have occupied center stage as potential providers of these matching funds. In May, a group of foundations pledged $500 million – far more than a 20 percent match - to support and leverage these grants. Those foundations are: Annie E. Casey Foundation; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; Ford Foundation; John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Lumina Foundation; Robertson Foundation; The Wallace Foundation; Walton Family Foundation; William & Flora Hewlett Foundation; and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
To enable applicants and matching organizations to connect, the Department is promoting a variety of on-line resources. Some resources are open to use by business as well as foundations. Two of the largest initiatives include the Open Innovation Portal and the Foundation Registry i3.
Open Innovation Portal
ED’s Open Innovation Portal is an open on-line community that allows individuals and applicants to register ideas, collaborate on solutions, and find partners and resources. The portal was particularly focused on helping i3 applicants find potential donors to help meet their matching requiring. However, thus far the only group that has taken advantage of the portal appears to be vendors listing brief descriptions of their programs and services.
Foundation Registry i3
The Foundation Registry was created by the foundations named above. Unlike the Open Innovation Portal, the Foundation Registry is specifically for i3 applicants to enable them to post their application for review by participating foundations seeking to fund high-quality, peer-reviewed proposals.
The registry provides applicants a streamlined process in which to get their application in front of the major foundations without having to submit separate applications. However, the Registry is limited to a relatively small number of foundations (albeit with a significant amount of funding) and does not enable other potential funders – such as business groups – to review the applications for potential support.
In addition to these two portals, the Department just recently announced that it “intends to provide detailed information on the applicants, partners, priorities, budgets and descriptions of each i3 application. The Department will leverage a new user-friendly platform that will allow the public to run customized reports on the application pool.”
While it’s not clear if this initiative will build upon or be different than the current Open Innovation Portal, it offers the opportunity for businesses and foundations to identify successful programs which they may want to support or help replicate within their own communities.
i3 Matching Requirements
- Only contributions from non-governmental (private) sources count toward the 20 percent matching requirement.
- Contributions may be cash or in-kind.
- Eligible applicants may count existing private-sector support toward the required match so long as these funds are reallocated in support of the proposed project, and the applicant submits appropriate evidence of this commitment.
- An eligible applicant need not have the entire match amount in hand at the time of award; however an i3 grant award will not be made unless the eligible applicant provides adequate evidence that the full 20 percent private-sector match has been committed or the Secretary approves the eligible applicant’s request to reduce the matching requirement.
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