Recently, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into Law. This groundbreaking legislation includes over $100 billion in funding for increased investments in research, development, and innovation across the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Commerce (DoC). Most importantly, many of these programs are specifically designed to expand research and innovation spending in regions of the U.S that historically have not received such investment.
Two programs included in CHIPS stand-out as leading opportunities for the Tulsa region to attract significant federal investment, promote the creation of new businesses and startups, and create tens of thousands of new jobs in the state: NSF’s Regional Innovation Engines and Commerce’s Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs. We believe Oklahoma and the Tulsa region is well-positioned to be competitive for both programs.
NSF’s Regional Innovation Engines is designed to catalyze technology and science-based regional innovation ecosystems through the promotion of use-inspired research, translation-to-practice and entrepreneurship, and workforce development. The intention is to develop strong regional networks to address major societal and economic challenges. NSF intends to award grants of up to $160M over ten years to each awardee.
Building on the success of our other regional initiatives, such as the Build Back Better Regional Challenge, TIL and Oklahoma State University – together with our partners in Northwest Arkansas, led by the NWA Council – have joined together to form the Future Logistics and Advanced Mobility Engine (FLAME) and submitted a concept for the NSF Engines program. FLAME is centered on an approximately200 mile stretch of the Route 412 Corridor and development will include contributions from partners such as Walmart, JB Hunt, Tyson Foods, QuikTrip, University of Arkansas, and Osage LLC. The collaboration between Northwest Arkansas and Oklahoma on FLAME will build on the recent agreement signed by Governors Hutchinson (AR) and Stitt (OK) designed to make the two states a center for the development of advanced mobility technologies.
FLAME will lay necessary scientific, industrial, and regulatory groundwork to accelerate the use of future mobility technologies (e.g., drones) to move people at scale, creating economic opportunity, mitigating emissions, and lowering transportation fatalities. We estimate that the $160M award from NSF could create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs in the region over the next 10 years, and FLAME’s successful application for NSF Engines and the Regional Innovation Hub grants will be essential to the development of our regional drone industry and securing America’s vulnerable supply chains.
TIL has reason to be confident in our NSF proposal as we are uniquely positioned to capitalize on the advanced aerial mobility opportunity due to leading AAM research capabilities (OSU’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute), strong drone regulatory environment (OK ranked #1 for readiness for drone commerce by the Mercatus Institute), and unique infrastructure assets (Beyond Visual Line of Sight corridor, Route 412, and the McClellan-Kerr Waterway).
The second program of interest, Commerce’s Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs, is designed to promote geographic diversity in the U.S.’s innovation economy while promoting technologies critical to national security. CHIPS authorizes $10 billion over five years to support at least 20 hubs across the nation – with a particular interest on regions that currently do not have a thriving innovation economy. TIL intends to pursue opportunities associated with these Hubs when they become available.
A thriving innovation ecosystem is essential to support the jobs of the future and to build stronger economies in our communities. Together, these opportunities present a significant opportunity to transform Tulsa’s economy and achieve TIL’s goals of inclusive, tech-led economic growth.