Growth Accelerator Fund 2024

How to Catalyze Your Ecosystem With the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC)

Find out how the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) can fund your ecosystem building efforts — our detailed post guides you through leveraging this unique opportunity from the SBA

Program Overview

Welcome back to another exciting cycle of the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC, or pronounced “gaff-sea” for short)!

This competition is more than just a funding opportunity; it’s a catalytic initiative by the SBA to strengthen its role in nurturing innovation ecosystems nationwide. GAFC stands as a testament to the SBA’s commitment to nationwide ecosystem building, as seen in events like the recent 3rd annual SBA Innovation Ecosystem Summit this past December and America’s Seed Fund Week which is happening January 23-25.

It’s clear the SBA isn’t just dipping its toes in the ecosystem waters; it’s diving deep to support the local innovative organizations that drive our nation forward.

Want to learn more about how your organization can utilize GAFC to catalyze your Ecosystem Partners and win some cash prizes to help with that process?

Read on to find out!

Theme Areas

With GAFC, the spotlight shines on three key theme areas: National and Economic Security, Domestic Manufacturing and Production, and Sustainability and Biotechnology, each with defined subcategories. This gives each ecosystem applicant a chance to plant its flag in a STEM-related topic and galvanize an ecosystem of players around this theme.

GAFC Funding Structure

GAFC follows a tiered approach to funding, offering two stages of the competition.

Only Stage One – called Catalyze – is open now.

Stage One winners will be awarded a $50,000 cash prize to catalyze GAFC partnerships. The expectation for these funds are to fall in some of the following categories:

  • Recruitment of new, community-connected Ecosystem Partners
  • Co-design with Ecosystem Partners
  • Establishment of novel partnerships
  • Strengthen existing alliances among stakeholders

Essentially, the intent of this funding is to lay the groundwork for ecosystem participation and collaboration – especially if it can expand access to the innovation economy for underserved and/or undercapatalized communities, including entrepreneurs of color, women entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs in rural settings.

Stage Two – named Acceleratewill award between $50,000 to $150,000 in cash prizes. The ultimate goal for this funding is to accelerate the partnerships catalyzed in Stage One to a new level in Stage Two.

But wait – there’s more! This year there is a concept of “Multiplier Bonus Prizes” in which SBA Federal Partners (other SBA Program offices or other Federal agencies) in which that partner can elect to provide a bonus prize for a contestant focusing on a priority area of the agency partner’s choice.

All in all, there’s a lot of funding out there to secure. But it all starts with submitting a competitive application!

Here’s how you can do that.

Eligibility + Application Criteria

The GAFC opens its doors wide to a diverse mix of organizations. Whether you’re a non-profit, a private enterprise, or an academic institution, if you’re geared up to be an Ecosystem Partner that supports STEM/R&D-focused small businesses, you’re in the right place.

As far as what a successful submission packet looks like for Stage One, there are four main requirements:

  1. Filling out basic details found at the bottom of the SBA’s GAFC site
  2. Designing a slide deck that answers the questions laid out by the 2024 competition guidelines. They tell you exactly what you’re looking for on each slide so make sure to follow it to a ‘T’.
  3. Developing a single presentation slide that summarizes info about your organization and the ecosystem that you’re working to build. If selected, this summary will be made public.
  4. Creating a 90-second-or-less video narrative that describes how the applicant is uniquely qualified to catalyze the entrepreneurial ecosystem around its selected theme. Like the one-slide summary, this will also be made public if you are selected.

Key Dates + Timeline

The journey began on January 8th, with a five-week window for Stage One applications and the SBA hosted a pre-application webinar on January 16th. Some key dates on the horizon:

  • January 31st: the Theme Explanation Webinar
  • February 16th: Application Deadline
  • February – March: Screening process
  • April: Stage One Winners Announced

And keep your ears open for the date of our special EcoMap-hosted webinar with the New Mexico Bioscience Authority (a 2023 GAFC winner) —it’s coming soon!

Helpful Resources

Getting started with GAFC is a breeze. Check out the full 2024 competition guidelines and the pre-application webinar slides to gear up. Further questions? Just shoot an email to accelerators@sba.gov.

How EcoMap Can Help

EcoMap Technologies is here to walk this journey with you. Our mission is making ecosystem information more accessible, creating a foundational platform to align all of your Ecosystem Partners.

We’re proud to say our partners often found themselves among the former GAFC winners. If you’re interested in learning more about how EcoMap can support your GAFC application, schedule a proposal call review here.

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