SSTI is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving initiatives that support prosperity through science, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. With a membership of more than 150 state organizations, regional technology-based economic development programs, universities, incubators, and technology councils among others, SSTI is focused on leading, supporting, and strengthening efforts to improve state and regional economies.

The Challenge
The Sheridan Group has partnered with SSTI to help build an advocacy coalition of members, define a policy platform, and develop and roll out an advocacy strategy.  Our goal is to create a dedicated funding stream for innovation organizations that leverage existing resources, spur regional collaboration, and support economic recovery and job creation in high-growth industries.

The Process
The Sheridan Group is seeking congressional support for the Regional Innovation Program at the U.S. Department of Commerce, which provides flexible grants to support regional innovation strategies. The effort builds off the momentum created by the i6 and Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge awards, which incentivize best-in-class regional innovation practices.

The Result
Despite its creation by Congress in the America COMPETES Act in 2010, the Regional Innovation Program had yet to receive funding when SSTI and TSG began their work. Without coordinated and strategic advocacy from SSTI, the Regional Innovation Program was destined to remain unfunded and misunderstood by lawmakers on the Hill or be dismantled altogether.  Over the course of nearly five years, and in the midst of a politically fractured Congress, SSTI and its partners have achieved remarkable success:

  • The Regional Innovation Program went from essentially unknown on Capitol Hill to having a committed and bipartisan group of Congressional champions who consistently speak publicly about the importance of the program. This work has also led to greater visibility and understanding of tech-based economic development-related issues on Capitol Hill more broadly.
  • For the first time since its original authorization, Congress appropriated $10 million to the Regional Innovation Program in FY14, and funding for the program has grown since. In the program’s first two years of Congressional funding, more than 400 applications to the program were submitted from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and 51 funding awards were made. In FY16, the Senate proposed $20 million and the House proposed $16 million for the Regional Innovation Program.
  • SSTI has developed an increasingly educated and engaged membership for federal advocacy. Since 2012, TSG has helped the organization conduct more than 175 congressional meetings, activate 120+ of its members to communicate with Congress, author nearly 20 Congressional letters, organize 13 trips to Washington, D.C., and host several roundtable discussions with Congressional staffers.