Biden Awards $504 Million to Tech Investment Hubs Across US

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s administration is awarding $504 million in funding for 12 regional technology hubs to expand research in areas such as artificial intelligence, semiconductor manufacturing and clean energy, part of an effort to boost private investment in cutting-edge industries outside the country’s traditional innovation centers.

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Among the funding recipients are hubs in New York and Florida, as well as swing-state Nevada and a center in South Carolina that will also serve parts of neighboring Georgia — a battleground in Biden’s reelection bid against Republican Donald Trump.

The awards include $19 million for researchers in South Florida focused on sustainable and climate-resilient infrastructure, including developing barriers to shield the area from rising seas. Five recipients getting $51 million include bases in Illinois and Indiana focused on biomanufacturing and engineers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who will experiment with autonomous systems, including AI-powered drones to inspect agriculture.

The New York hub, focused on semiconductor manufacturing, will receive $40 million, while the Nevada center gets $21 million to work on lithium batteries and electric-vehicle materials.

“There are smart people, great entrepreneurs and leading-edge research institutions all across the country, and we’re leaving so much potential on the table if we don’t get them the resources to compete and win,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters. Around nine in ten US tech jobs created in the past 20 years went to just five cities, she said.

The program is one of several initiatives from Biden’s signature legislative accomplishment, the Chips and Science Act and Inflation Reduction Act, which he has used to spur investments in domestic manufacturing and position the US to better compete with China, the world’s second-largest economy, over the development of critical technologies.

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The investment boom is also a cornerstone of Biden’s economic agenda, with the president touting his efforts in communities across the country. That pitch though has largely failed to convince voters who are skeptical of his handling of the economy, one of the defining issues of November’s presidential election.

The tech hubs program received hundreds of applications, and officials earlier named 31 designees as an inaugural cohort, which allowed them to apply for as much as $75 million in funding each.

Lawmakers originally authorized $10 billion for the tech-hub initiative over five years, but they’ve only appropriated $541 million of that in the last two years. An attempt to boost the program by $2 billion as part of a broader bill has stalled on Capitol Hill.

The grants announced Tuesday eat up most of the available funding. Raimondo said she and Biden have asked lawmakers to provide more money for the program, noting “the number of Democrats and Republicans who made pitches for the regions that they want to see designated.”

Raimondo will tout the grants at a lithium battery manufacturing project in Reno, Nevada, on Tuesday. She’ll be joined by Democratic US Senator Jacky Rosen who is running for reelection this year in Nevada, a state that could impact her party’s hopes of retaining Senate control.

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