The program was created about a decade ago by congress to help colleges invest in the STEM fields. These grants encourage “innovation and entrepreneurial enterprises,” to provide a place for young innovators to learn and grow without the pressure of a huge debt.
This program began as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), but in January 2007, it became the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), after Congress appropriated $750 million for ARPA-E to develop research in the areas of electric power, advanced materials, and nanotechnology. And this grant is available to states across the country, including Maryland, where the University of Maryland is located.
How does the federal government invest the money it receives for this program? The state must submit a plan for “programmatic incentives that will increase state economic development or innovation,” and they must get approval from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Office of Federal Financial Management, and from the Council of Economic Advisers. This is how Congress determines the “potential impact” of federal investment. The grant funds are given as grants, with no guarantee that recipients will even be eligible to receive funding for a certain project.
To make it easier for colleges and universities to use the funds, ARPA-E created an “investment strategy” and a number of “benchmarks.” Among them are the College Cost Indicator (CCi), which determines college affordability; the STEM Pipeline, which analyzes the number of high schools with computer science, math, or engineering degrees over time, and the State of STEM, which measures progress in states on several aspects of education that improve the economy across all industries.
How does the government regulate the grants? The federal money is awarded under two different appropriations bills. (The other is the Higher Education Act of 1965, or H.R. 3036, a version of ARPA-E.) Since the grant programs are meant to encourage investment in innovative ideas and businesses, the law says a state must receive federal funding before issuing funding to a college or university to support projects that are approved as “innovative.”
The grant money doesn’t go directly into colleges and universities’ pockets, though. Instead, it goes into the treasury. In most cases, the grant money goes to research institutes like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland. In the case of Maryland, ARPA-E has also designated $500 million to be available for “innovation and entrepreneurial ventures” over the
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