Federal Growth Accelerator and Catalyst Funds Support Small Businesses

by | Jun 10, 2022 | Grants

As it aims to support inclusive entrepreneurship in the innovation ecosystem, the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Investment and Innovation (OII) coordinates an annual competition for the nation’s most innovative and promising small business accelerators, incubators, and business catalysts.

SBA Growth Accelerator Fund

The Growth Accelerator Fund Competition was created in 2014 to attract funding to areas of the country with “gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.” Eligible participants of the competition are accelerators and incubators that can provide targeted assistance to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and/or Research and Development (R&D) entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups including women, people of color, rural, and veteran entrepreneurs. SBA awards $50,000 to accelerators to help them provide additional programmatic support to businesses such as helping them locate additional sources of capital, building or expanding mentorship networks, and providing workspace support for high-growth start-ups.

SBA SBIR Catalyst

The SBIR Catalyst invests in collaborative partnerships to build and catalyze connections across entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) that support innovation-focused entrepreneurs from underserved communities. These catalysts have experience connecting organizations and businesses to stimulate the development of innovation clusters, hubs, and other technology-based economic development programs. Winning SBIR catalysts each receive a $150,000 prize from the SBA. 

In 2021, SBA announced $5.4 million in prizes for winners of the competition. The application period was from May 26, 2021, to July 2, 2021, and required the submission of general contestant information, a detailed submission slide deck, and a 90-minute video narrative. Winning proposals were selected based on the quality and clarity of the submission, alignment with SBA’s funding objective, feasibility, and implementation plans.


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The funds were awarded to 84 Growth Accelerator Fund winners and eight SBIR Catalyst winners to increase the launch, growth, and scale of small businesses in the US engaged in developing deep-tech products or services.

2021 Growth Accelerator Fund winners included Startup Tucson (Arizona), Oak Crest Institute of Science (California), and Invest Atlanta (Georgia). SBIR Catalyst winners include Florida High Tech Corridor Council and partners, XLerator Network and partners, and BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting and partners.

SBA is clear in its goal to award prizes to organizations that are finding ways to support underrepresented entrepreneurs and individuals living in underrepresented geographic regions. To learn more about how to find other federal funding, be sure to register for Federal Grants Simplified.

To see the full list of 2021 winners, visit the Small Business Innovation Research Accelerator page. To learn more about the SBA’s OII, visit this page. The prize competition rules for the 2021 SBA Prize Competition can be found here.

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