Optimal Solutions Group, LLC (Optimal), assessed a Small Business Administration (SBA) initiative that provides funding to regional clusters of small businesses for its performance

Date: September 1, 2020

The SBA’s Regional Innovation Cluster (RIC) Initiative, launched in September 2010, promotes and supports U.S. regional clusters—geographically concentrated groups of connected businesses, suppliers, service providers, and similar institutions in an industry or field. Clusters act as a networking hub to convene resources for small businesses. This then helps small businesses in navigating funding, procurement, and supply-chain opportunities in their specific industry.

Currently, the RIC Initiative provides funding to 14 industry clusters. The SBA is pursuing three aims in each of these clusters. The first goal is to increase the chances for small businesses to participate within the clusters. Accordingly, the SBA’s initiative selected clusters to receive funding partially based on their ability and potential to provide industry-specific assistance to small businesses within their regions. The second goal is to enhance economic development and growth in the regions in which the 14 selected clusters are operating. The third goal is to promote innovation in the clusters’ focused industries, which include geospatial technology products, water technologies, retail management and logistics, marine science technologies, autonomous and unmanned systems, defense technologies (e.g., surveillance, small spacecrafts, and cybersecurity), fuel cells and energy storage, smart grid technologies, wood products, bioscience technologies, and flexible electronics.

The 14 industry clusters consist of seven long-serving and seven new sites. The SBA sought help from Optimal, a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm, in developing an overall evaluation framework for the SBA’s RIC Initiative, and assistance in designing new or clarifying existing measures and metrics.

Find out more about the SBA’s Regional Innovation Cluster Initiative.

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Optimal Solutions Group, LLC 

Founded in 2000, Optimal Solutions Group, LLC, is a nonpartisan public policy research and data analytics firm located at the University of Maryland’s Discovery District in College Park.  Optimal employees have varied backgrounds in such fields as public policy, computer science, data science, economics, education, health, housing, sociology, statistics and information management.