In his 2008 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama promised to "create a federal program to support 'innovation clusters' – regional centers of innovation and next-generation industries.”
Obama added that he wanted to give $200 million in grants to work with leaders in business, academics and government to improve infrastructure and enhance growth on a local level. He said the program would put money towards "building research parks, workforce attraction efforts, supporting regional transportation projects tied to developing clusters, and bolstering local job training."
Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director at the Brookings Institute who has written extensively about innovation clusters, told PolitiFact how they can impact a region.
"It makes it easier for them to obtain critical resources such as knowledge spillovers from one firm to another, or from institutions like universities to the firms,” Muro said. "And it allows firms to essentially share various local resources or to collaborate.”
As we explained in our last update, the Economic Development Administration, a Commerece Department agency, received $50 million in 2010 to support the creation of regional innovation clusters throughout the country.
Innovation clusters were also addressed in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which became law on Jan. 4, 2011. The act asks Secretary of Commerce John Bryson "to establish a regional innovation program to encourage and support the development of regional innovation strategies, including regional innovation clusters, science and research parks.”
That strategy was strengthened in 2010 with the formation of the Taskforce for Advancing Regional Innovation Clusters, an initiative from the Obama administration to create innovation clusters through a collaboration of government agencies like the EDA, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and the Small Business Administration.
The largest innovation cluster investment took place in 2010, when the U.S. Department of Energy announced that as part of a partnership with the EDA, SBA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, it would award an almost $130 million grant to a team led by the University of Pennsylvania to create the Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings.
The project"s goals are to create a hub in the city that not only would improve energy use but would also "stimulate private investment and quality job creation in Greater Philadelphia and beyond,” which is in line with Obama"s campaign promise.
Other projects focused on the creation of innovation clusters include the $37 million Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which gave grants to 20 innovation regions across, the country specializing in areas such as clean energy and aerospace engineering, and the $15 million Rural Job and Innovation Accelerator Challenge, which is expected to supply funds for support of innovation clusters in up to 20 rural regions.
And in March 2012, the president also announced that the administration would invest $45 million through the Departments of Defense, Energy and Commerce to create an institute that would serve as a hub for manufacturing innovation.
Putting all of that together, the administration has spent over $225 million towards regional innovation cluster projects for the Department of the Energy, Small Business Administration and Economic Development Administration since Obama took office. And as part of its 2013 budget request, the administration has requested another $25 million.
So Obama has exceeded the $200 million that he promised.
We rate this a Promise Kept.