Opportunity number
Department of Commerce (DOC) Economic Development Administration (EDA)
Due date
October 12, 2021
Advanced Manufacturing Agriculture Economic Development Education & Workforce Information Technologies Innovation
Project funding
upto $250,000
Program funding
Funding size
Below $1M

STEM Talent Challenge

RFP Summary provided by the agency

The STEM Talent Challenge aims to increase STEM talent training systems to strengthen regional innovation economies. This competition seeks applications from eligible applicants that are creating and implementing STEM talent development strategies that complement their respective region’s innovation economy, particularly as they relate to emerging, transformative sectors and future industries such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced manufacturing and robotics, space exploration and commerce, bioscience, quantum information science, and aqua- and agricultural technologies.

The STEM Talent Challenge is designed to help communities with implementing programs that align with the assessed needs of the region and its innovative businesses. Projects should implement or scale STEM competency-based work-and-learn education and training models that are directly connected with the needs of employers in a regional economy.

A total of $2 million has been appropriated for this program and EDA invites applications that maximize impacts across both activities within this program, though planning and development activities are optional. The maximum federal share of each STEM Talent Challenge award is $250,000. This funding should be used for program implementation during the period of performance.

Example Activities
Projects should aim to identify opportunities in high-growth potential sectors, and to expand and empower the innovation economy workforce, including by:

  • Engaging regional entrepreneurs, innovators, and the organizations that support them to assess and forecast current and future talent needs and to develop collaborative solutions with work-based programs.
  • Building highly skilled talent and connecting it to highly technical opportunities that foster professional development and provide continuing advanced skills training to develop the technical and scientific workforce that regional innovation initiatives need.
  • Strengthening collaboration among entrepreneurs, industry leaders and employers, educational organizations, established corporations, economic and/or workforce development organizations, and the public sector to enable better access to skilled workers and to develop demand-driven workforce pipelines for the innovation economy.
  • Placing new employees into immediate job openings with regional employers in need of STEM talent.

Applicants should demonstrate how they will leverage regional strengths, capabilities, and competitive advantages and should avoid the duplication of already existing initiatives within the applicant’s organization or by other organizations or consortia in the relevant region.

Additional Links:

Informational Webinar here

What is the mission and focus of the program: research, social, economic or others?

Desired Outputs and Outcomes
Proposed projects may aim for some or all the following outputs and outcomes or others, as appropriate, considering each proposed project’s regional, sectoral, and economic contexts.

STEM Work-Based Learning and Training – Projects should focus on an interdisciplinary approach and utilize training models that provide workers with the experiences and skills they will need to succeed on-the-job and in real-world applications.
Increase Regional Innovation Capacity – Projects should focus on connecting regional innovation stakeholders and employers with the workforce and talent development leaders of the region, or training providers who are readying tomorrow’s workforce.
Increase Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in STEM – Projects should focus on enabling all members of a community to have equitable access to and participate in the innovation economy.
Build Computational Expertise for the Digital Economy – Digital tools and the internet have profoundly transformed the economy and our approach to learning. In an increasingly virtual and remote world, these skills are essential to diversify economies and to adapt to rapidly transforming places of work and education.

How do you submit to this opportunity?

Apply through Grants.gov

Who are the target applicants: cities, universities, companies, small business, nonprofits, or others?

Eligible applicants for EDA financial assistance under this NOFO include:
• A State.
• An Indian tribe.
• A city or other political subdivision of a State.
• An entity that is—
o a nonprofit organization,
o an institution of higher education,
o a public-private partnership,
o a science or research park,
o a Federal laboratory,
o an economic development organization or similar entity; and has an application that is supported by a State, a political subdivision of a State, or a native organization; or
o A consortium of any of the eligible applicants listed above.
• EDA is not authorized to provide assistance to individuals under this Program. Applications from individuals will not be considered for funding.

Example Projects

Proposed projects may aim for some or all the following outputs and outcomes or others, as appropriate, considering each proposed project’s regional, sectoral, and economic contexts.

• STEM Work-Based Learning and Training – These may include, but are not limited to, innovative industry-driven apprenticeships, fellowships, internships, and other cooperative employer-educator partnerships, and are not limited to existing industry definitions – experimentation and innovation is encouraged. While important to the development of a future workforce, general education programs such as those found in K-12 curriculums are not encouraged, unless part of a broader strategy in a STEM readiness program.
• Increase Regional Innovation Capacity – Organizations that normally do not identify as workforce development organizations, but are driving regional innovation through worker training are encouraged to apply. These may include, but are not limited to eligible applicants that are business accelerators and incubators, digital economy training organizations, and venture development organizations.
 Increase Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in STEM – Talent development programs should prioritize forging new and reinforcing existing relationships among an inclusive group of regional stakeholders, especially those who are underrepresented or historically underserved, including across socioeconomic and geographic categories.
• Build Computational Expertise for the Digital Economy – Examples of this could involve digital and cloud platforms to increase collaboration, teaching and training, customizable individual instruction in computer science or adjacent fields, as well as virtual reality or simulation-based training activities.

Featured Example from EDA 

Brownsville, TX, Expanding Frontiers: Empowering Space Entrepreneurs in Brownsville Texas. $299,643 and $299,643 Federal Match.

Expanding Frontiers (ExF) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop the commercial space ecosystem in Brownsville, Texas, an economically distressed region. The programs aimed at exposing local STEM students, entrepreneurs, and highly trained veterans to commercial space have already achieved award-winning results and meaningfully impacted local economic development. But Expanding Frontiers would like to do more. The STEM Talent Challenge grant will help launch the NewSpace Entrepreneur in Residence Apprenticeship Program, an associated internship program, and standing up the NewSpace Entrepreneur Vision 2030 council, Expanding Frontiers plans to bridge a current gap in the ecosystem that will lead to more commercial space companies in Brownsville and more local talent earning high-paying jobs.

These plans are ambitious, and the community is united. Expanding Frontiers possesses a rock-solid network of companies, advisors, venture capitalists, and government agency partners who have already poured time, energy, and expertise into their efforts. They are ready to do much more. Their new programs for training and mentoring entrepreneurs, engaging the community, and organizing a best-in-class network to advise, direct, and fund commercial space startups build on their proven models of success. They are designed squarely at equipping entrepreneurs with what they need and removing the most common roadblocks in their way. Properly funded, these programs will succeed, and they will have tremendous and lasting impact on the economic health of South Texas. The people of Brownsville have no shortage of capacity, work ethic, or resolve. What they have lacked is opportunities. Expanding Frontiers aims to change that.


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