How Planning Grants Can Set Regions Up for Long-Term Success

Large competitive federal funding opportunities often come with low probabilities of success. However, an innovative approach involving planning grants and implementation grants is proving to be a game-changer. In this article, we explore the success of the planning phase in regional economic development through the experiences of the National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines program and the Economic Development Administration's Build Back Better Regional Challenge. Let's dive into how planning grants can set regions up for long-term success.

The Importance of Planning Grants

Discover why planning grants play a crucial role in regional economic development.

Planning grants serve as a critical stepping stone in regional economic development. They provide regions with the opportunity to build capabilities and refine their strategies, making them more attractive to potential investors. By investing in the planning phase, regions can set themselves up for long-term success, even if they don't secure implementation grants.

When regions participate in planning grants, they gain valuable insights and feedback from experts and potential investors. This feedback allows them to iterate and improve their strategies, increasing their chances of success in future funding opportunities. Planning grants act as a catalyst for regional collaboration and strategic development, paving the way for economic growth and innovation.

Lessons from the National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines Program

Explore the experiences of the National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines program and its impact on regional economic development.

The Regional Innovation Engines program, a $6.5 billion investment in regional innovation ecosystems, provides valuable insights into the benefits of planning grants. This program offers implementation grants to foster research and commercialization in a region's innovation ecosystem. The success of the program's finalists demonstrates the positive impact of investing in planning.

Many of the organizations leading the National Science Foundation (NSF) finalist coalitions also participated in the Economic Development Administration's (EDA) Build Back Better Regional Challenge. This overlap highlights the value of leveraging planning grants to enhance strategies and increase the attractiveness of regional proposals. The planning phase helps regions refine their high-level visions into comprehensive strategic portfolios.

One notable example is the Space Valley Coalition in New Mexico. Although they did not secure an implementation grant from the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, their participation in the planning phase was instrumental in preparing them for the Regional Innovation Engines program. The feedback received during the planning phase allowed them to develop a consistent and compelling strategy, focusing on regional cooperation and infrastructure investments to drive space technology commercialization.

Collaboration and Synchronization of Federal Programs

Learn about the importance of collaboration and synchronization between federal agencies in regional economic development.

Collaboration between federal agencies is crucial for maximizing the impact of regional economic development programs. The alignment of program application requirements and objectives ensures a more streamlined and efficient process for regional applicants. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) have independently arrived at similar program design elements and application requirements, indicating the potential for a common application that standardizes information.

By working together, federal agencies can reduce administrative burdens for regional applicants and create more accessible programs. The coordination between the NSF's Regional Innovation Engines program and the EDA's Build Back Better Regional Challenge demonstrates the possibility of backend standardization. This collaboration allows regions to focus on developing strong, credible strategies and fosters a more vibrant and inclusive regional economy.

Empowering Regional Planners and Increasing Resources

Discover the importance of empowering regional planners and increasing resources for successful regional economic development.

Empowering regional planners is essential for designing effective economic development strategies. Providing technical assistance, strategic development resources, and ongoing funding enables regional intermediaries to create transformational strategies. The Economic Development Administration (EDA) should increase the size of its ongoing strategy development funding to strengthen the capacity of regional planners.

Consistent resources allow regional planners to refine their strategies and address the unique challenges and opportunities in their regions. By investing in the development of regional intermediaries, federal agencies can ensure that transformational strategies become the norm, leading to sustainable and inclusive regional economic growth.

Conclusion

Planning grants play a crucial role in setting regions up for long-term success in economic development. The experiences of the National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines program and the Economic Development Administration's Build Back Better Regional Challenge demonstrate the value of investing in the planning phase. By leveraging planning grants, regions can refine their strategies, collaborate with stakeholders, and increase their attractiveness for future funding opportunities.

Collaboration and synchronization between federal agencies are key to maximizing the impact of regional economic development programs. By aligning program requirements and objectives, federal agencies can create a more streamlined and accessible process for regional applicants. Empowering regional planners and increasing resources are also essential for designing and implementing effective economic development strategies.

By following these lessons and embracing a collaborative approach, regions and federal leaders can work together to create vibrant and inclusive regional economies across the nation.

FQA :

How do planning grants benefit regions in economic development?

Planning grants provide regions with the opportunity to refine their strategies, gain valuable feedback, and increase their attractiveness to potential investors. They serve as a stepping stone for long-term success in economic development.

What can be learned from the experiences of the National Science Foundation's Regional Innovation Engines program?

The Regional Innovation Engines program highlights the importance of leveraging planning grants to enhance strategies and increase the attractiveness of regional proposals. It demonstrates the value of collaboration, feedback, and refining high-level visions into comprehensive strategic portfolios.

Why is collaboration between federal agencies important in regional economic development?

Collaboration between federal agencies ensures alignment of program requirements and objectives, streamlining the process for regional applicants. It reduces administrative burdens, fosters accessibility, and creates a more vibrant and inclusive regional economy.

How can regional planners be empowered for successful economic development?

Empowering regional planners involves providing technical assistance, strategic development resources, and ongoing funding. By investing in the development of regional intermediaries, federal agencies can create transformational strategies and foster sustainable and inclusive regional economic growth.

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