What to Know about the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund

What to Know about the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund

On January 8, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the opening of the 2024 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition. According to Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman, “The SBA’s 10-year strong Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) strengthens the nation’s innovation ecosystem and builds local partnerships critical to ensuring all of America’s great ideas can thrive through the vast resources available through the federal government.” Companies are now able to apply for the competition, which offers cash prizes from $50,000 to $200,000. Today we’ll dive into what you should know about the competition, plus helpful information on how to apply.

What is the GAFC, and Who Can Apply? 

The GAFC has been around for 10 years now, with a goal of advancing small business research and development (R&D) efforts and encouraging universities and large research organizations to create partnerships with small businesses.

The SBA has the competition divided into two stages: The first stage puts its focus on companies that can build out ecosystems for a given business sector (think universities, research organizations, etc.), and it offers recipients $50,000. Organizations that are awarded the money in stage one are then able to compete for another prize in stage two, which offers an additional $50,000 to $150,000.

Stage two is where small business owners can take advantage of direct assistance from the winners of stage one; stage two awards can be used for training, mentorship, or developing new customer/supplier relationships.

The SBA hopes to give up to $3 million in the competition’s initial stage, and up to $5.75 million altogether. According to reporting on Inc., “If the SBA doesn’t award the full $3 million allocated in stage one, those unused funds may be awarded in stage two so long as the total amount awarded remains below $5.75 million. It is possible that other federal agencies may join with SBA to provide additional awards.” 

Per the website, there are several GAFC Theme Areas that applicants should tailor their submissions to: 

National and Economic Security, including but not limited to: 

  • National Security and Defense
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Microelectronics
  • Advanced Computing and Software
  • Quantum Computing
  • Human-Machine Interfaces
  • Other Critical and Emerging Technologies 

Domestic Manufacturing and Production, including but not limited to: 

  • Advanced Manufacturing R&D
  • Supply Chain Resiliency
  • Critical and Resilient Infrastructure
  • AgTech and Agricultural Innovation
  • Other Supply Chain, Infrastructure, and Manufacturing Technologies 

Sustainability and Biotechnology, including but not limited to: 

  • Energy and Sustainability
  • Biotechnology
  • Climate and Environment
  • Public Health
  • Renewable Energy Generation and Storage
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Blue Economy
  • Other Climate, Energy, and Life Science Technologies 

Organizations have until February 16 to submit their applications, and stage one winners will be notified in April; stage two winners will be notified in September.

Additional Information, Guidelines, and Application

Potential Stage One applicants are invited to informational webinars scheduled for later this month, which are free and open to the public. Additional information on how to sign up can be found on the SBA’s website.

The Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Guidelines and the application portal can be found here.

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