NCBiotech-Led Partnership Among Phase 1 Awardees in Federal Build Back Better Regional Challenge
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center and a statewide coalition of public and private partner organizations and institutions are a Phase 1 recipient of up to $500,000 in the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge.
The NCBiotech-led consortium is one of only 60 chosen from a field of 529 applicants that are being awarded up to $500,000 to further develop their winning proposals to implement a collection of three to eight distinct, but related, regional projects. The proposals needed to include coordination of industry and community partners and be aligned with a holistic vision to build and scale a strategic industry sector.
The NCBiotech-led plan, entitled “Accelerating Life Science Manufacturing to Create Economic Resilience and Promote Equity in Distressed North Carolina Communities,” is to help expand, connect, scale, and promote the life sciences manufacturing cluster to heighten the transformation North Carolina’s economy and communities. It brought together stakeholders from academia, industry, state and local government, and other nonprofits and included seven complementary and aligned projects organized under a singular vision.
The NCBiotech proposal comprised a number of independent but integrated projects led by statewide coalition partners including North Carolina Central University and a collaborative of other NC HBCU’s; the North Carolina Community College System and a network of community colleges across the state; First Flight Venture Center; some of NC’s leading life sciences research universities, East Carolina University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington in support of regional cluster programs across eastern NC; and the North Carolina Department of Commerce.
Triad project also clears Phase 1
Another North Carolina consortium that was awarded one of the Phase 1 grants is being led by the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, specifically targeting advanced manufacturing, including the region’s strengths in furniture and aviation. The project description also includes a life sciences component, tapping the capabilities of the world-renowned Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, also a partner in the NCBiotech project.
NCBiotech 'delighted' for the opportunity
“We are delighted to be selected as a finalist to advance biomanufacturing in underserved communities of our state,” said Bill Bullock, NCBiotech’s senior vice president for economic development and statewide operations. “Together with our partners, we can build upon one of North Carolina’s core clusters -- life sciences manufacturing. The Build Back Better Challenge affords us an opportunity to do this, further bolstering our rural communities and statewide economy.”
Under the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March, EDA was allocated $3 billion in supplemental economic development funding. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge is one of many programs developed by the EDA, a bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce, aimed at building strong regional economies and supporting community-led economic development nationwide. This Challenge program is aimed at accelerating economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and building local economies that will be resilient to future economic shocks. It’s the largest economic development initiative from the Department of Commerce in decades.
Advancing to Phase 2 of the Challenge
NCBiotech and its partners now advance to Phase 2 of the Challenge, with plans to submit seven synergistic projects, ranging from innovation and technology development to increasing industry awareness, to accessibility of training programs. The projects are all centered on expanding job opportunities in the life sciences.
EDA will select 20 to 30 coalitions, from the 60 Phase 1 winners, to receive up to $100 million in the American Rescue Plan funding. The deadline for Phase 2 applications is March 15, 2022.
The American Rescue Plan funding enabled EDA to offer larger, more-transformational investments that include flexible funding to support community-led economic development. With an emphasis on equity, especially in previously underserved communities impacted by COVID-19.