The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced the addition of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) cluster to the portfolio of communities it supports through the Regional Innovation Clusters initiative.
The UAS Cluster of South Kansas and Oklahoma, along with two other new awardees, joins a portfolio of 11 SBA-supported clusters: geographically concentrated groups of interconnected businesses, suppliers, service providers and related institutions in a particular industry or field.
With contractor Development Capital Networks, the UAS Cluster is situated in a region with a long history of aviation leadership and a rapidly growing number of UAS companies, says the SBA. This includes the National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita; the Federal Aviation Administration Academy in Oklahoma City; aeronautics programs at Wichita State University and Oklahoma State University; and facilities including the Chilocco airspace, Camp Gruber Joint Maneuver Training Center, Clinton-Sherman Airport and Tinker Air Force Base.
Clusters supported through the program are awarded $500,000 for the base year of the contract, with four option years to be exercised at the SBA’s discretion, for up to a total of $2.5 million per cluster initiative over five years.
The SBA’s funding is provided to each cluster’s organizing entity to strengthen opportunities for small businesses within the cluster. The funds are used to provide mentoring and counseling services, mentor-protégé and teaming programming, and showcasing and pitching events to prospective investors and public-private sector adopters of new technology.
“Clusters are public-private partnerships that are driving innovation and job creation in our most promising regional hubs,” Douglas Kramer, deputy administrator of the SBA, explains. “We’re unleashing the full potential of entrepreneurs who are developing cutting-edge products and processes that will help ensure American global competitiveness – creating supportive environments for small businesses in regions with the most need.”