By Mackenzie Hawkins and Jennifer Jacobs
President Joe Biden designated 31 technology hubs in the US, part of an administration effort to draw private capital for science and technology manufacturing to more communities across the country.
“You don’t have to leave home or your family to get a good job. For too long, science and innovation and the economic opportunities that came with it were concentrated on the coasts,” Biden said at a White House event Monday. He touted the effort as part of his “Bidenomics” agenda.
The tech hubs span not just semiconductors but also electric vehicles, critical minerals, biomanufacturing and clean energy — the key prongs of Biden’s industrial policy. Just a handful of the designees will receive government funding set aside in last year’s Chips and Science Act, which aims to boost US manufacturing of critical electronic components.
The goal, administration officials say, is to generate economic activity outside of coastal boomtowns like San Francisco — distributing the benefits of government subsidies and some $500 billion in private capital that has flowed into advanced manufacturing since Biden took office. The hubs are scattered across 32 states and Puerto Rico.
Biden said the hubs would be able to compete for up to $75 million each “to accelerate and scale up their work.” A hub in Wisconsin aims to build technologies to support personalized medicine by testing treatments and therapies tailored to patients, while, in the Ohio hub, businesses and universities would develop sustainable plastic and rubber technology that can be manufactured with fewer emissions, he said.
The projects will draw from a total pool of a half-billion dollars — meaning most won’t get monetary support. The Chips Act authorized $10 billion for the program but lawmakers appropriated just 5% of that, leaving the Commerce Department with a $500 million pot of money and a stack of around 400 applications.
The department is treating this round of designations as a pilot, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters ahead of Monday’s announcement. Commerce will separately award 29 grants to help applicants prepare for future rounds of funding.
Two-thirds of the 31 hubs benefit small and rural communities, according to a fact sheet, and a third includes labor organizations as key members of the consortium. A handful will be in coal communities, are headquartered in low-population states or include a tribal government.
The administration’s broader industrial policy includes several other place-based initiatives.
The Pentagon last month awarded $238 million to eight tech hubs to drive investment in chips with military applications, and the Energy Department this month announced $7 billion for seven hydrogen hubs that aim to create clean energy networks that cross multiple state lines.
A Commerce pilot program called Recompete will dedicate $200 million to distressed communities where prime-age employment lags behind the national average.
(Published 23 October 2023, 23:11 IST)