Sign up for updates. Be part of our community.

U.S. Department of Commerce Awards $2 Million in Grants to Drive Innovation and Entrepreneurship through Inaugural STEM Talent Challenge

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross today announced the seven grant recipients of the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) STEM Talent Challenge to boost local science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent.

The inaugural STEM Talent Challenge funding opportunity kicked off in August 2020 to further build STEM workforce readiness and spur innovation across the nation. Awardees include nonprofits, a Native American tribal government, a community college, universities, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations with projects in emerging and transformative sectors such as space commerce, aeronautics, digital manufacturing, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity.

“The Trump Administration is proud to support the seven STEM Talent Challenge grant recipients which are doing tremendous work to prepare America’s workforce for tomorrow and beyond,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Awardees’ projects will foster the future of work while supporting high-growth, high-wage entrepreneurial ventures, industries of the future, and other innovation-driven businesses.”

“Strong STEM talent fuels innovation and entrepreneurship in regional innovation economies across America,” said Dana Gartzke, Performing the Delegated Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “This grant challenge invests in workers through work-and-learn programs and apprenticeships, and these individuals become the backbone of robust innovative and entrepreneurial economies.”

The awardees, selected from a pool of 80 applicants, will leverage an additional $2.3 million in matching funds from a variety of private and public sector sources.

The STEM Talent Challenge grant recipients are:

Grantee: Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Tribal Government (ASCPI), St. Paul Island, Alaska
EDA Grant: $258,535
Local Match: $353,503
Sector: Aeronautics
Project Description: Design and implement training for community members that fulfills the STEM talent needs of the emerging aeronautics industry in St. Paul Island. The internship and mentorship opportunities provided will immediately prepare residents for existing jobs, while building the capacity for automated commercial aircraft manufacturing in the region.

Grantee: Expanding Frontiers, Brownsville, Texas
EDA Grant: $299,643
Local Match: $299,643
Sector: Space Commerce
Project Description: Launch the NewSpace Entrepreneur in Residence Apprenticeship Program to train and empower entrepreneurs in space commerce and attract space-related companies and jobs to Brownsville. Training will be a mix of apprenticeship and internship models. Project will also build community awareness of entrepreneurship and space commerce.

Grantee: Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland
EDA Grant: $300,000
Local Match: $302,936
Sector: Cybersecurity and IT
Project Description: Expand and scale work-and-learn programs in cybersecurity and IT to fulfill the talent needs of related businesses in Columbia and the surrounding regions. Project will also provide entrepreneurial consulting and support to IT businesses.

Grantee: Maui Economic Development Board, Kihei, Hawaii
EDA Grant: $300,000
Local Match: $500,000
Sectors: Renewable energy, artificial intelligence, machine learning, among others
Project Description: Scale up the successful STEMworks program to provide hands-on training for Maui residents in seven different focus areas. These focus areas are considered vital to the future of Hawaii’s economy and include renewable energy, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and agriculture.

Grantee: Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
EDA Grant: $295,643
Local Match: $295,644
Sector: Digital manufacturing / Industry 4.0 / Smart factories
Project Description: Create a virtual factory environment and utilize digital tools such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to provide training on Industry 4.0 techniques. Manage factory operations through virtual and hands-on apprenticeships.

Grantee: University City Science Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
EDA Grant: $246,179
Local Match: $246,179
Sector: Biotechnology / cell and gene therapy
Project Description: Expand the Building an Understanding of Lab Basics (BULB) program to provide a mix of virtual and on-the-job training to prepare Philadelphia residents for biotech careers. Scale program to fulfill the needs of the cell and gene therapy industry.

Grantee: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
EDA Grant: $300,000
Local Match: $301,066
Sectors: Advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity
Project Description: Implement the Advanced Manufacturing Cybersecurity Work-and-Learn Program (AMCP), which combines online instruction and hands-on learning labs to build cybersecurity knowledge within a manufacturing setting. Program fulfills a critical need in Michigan for cybersecurity professionals with specific knowledge of manufacturing equipment.

For more information, visit EDA’s STEM Talent Challenge webpage at

EDA’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE) administers the STEM Talent Challenge, which is authorized under Section 28 of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Act of 1980.

This challenge builds on the momentum of EDA’s Build to Scale Program, which builds regional economies through scalable startups.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing