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2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition

2023 Stage One Winners Announced

Press Release: SBA Announces 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition Stage One Winners | U.S. Small Business Administration

Since its launch in 2014, the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition has awarded 387 prizes totaling over $19 million to 284 unique winners across 52 states and U.S. territories. The 2023 competition introduced a multi-stage approach with Stage One focused on catalyzing an ecosystem around a particular theme. Stage One applicants represented 45 U.S. states and territories, with 70 percent as first-time applicants to the 2023 Competition.

Forty Stage One prize winners come from 30 states, including D.C. and Puerto Rico. Sixty-five percent of winners are first time applicants and 50 percent of the winning organizations specifically support rural entrepreneurs. The 2023 Competition focused on four theme areas with 25 percent of Stage One winners focused on National Security & Global Competitiveness, 27.5 percent on Domestic Manufacturing & Production, 10 percent on Climate & Renewable Energy, and 37.5 percent on Underserved Communities. Geographically, 17.5 percent of winners aim serve at the local/sub-state region, 42.5 percent statewide, 20 percent regionally (multiple states), and 20 percent nationwide.

Additional details on each of the Stage One Catalysts can be found at

National Security & Global Competitiveness

  • Delaware - Delaware Technology Park
  • Kentucky - XLerateHealth (DBA XLerator Network)
  • Mississippi - Mississippi State University
  • New Hampshire - Hannah Grimes Center
  • New Mexico - University of New Mexico (dba New Mexico Bioscience Authority)
  • North Dakota - University of North Dakota UND Center for Innovation Foundation
  • Oklahoma - Development Capital Networks LLC (dba UAS Cluster Initiative)
  • Texas - BioMedSA
  • Virginia - Virginia Small Business Development Center at George Mason University
  • Washington - Greater Seattle Partners

Domestic Manufacturing and Production

  • California - AgTech Innovation Alliance (AgStart)
  • Hawaii - Hawaii Island Business Plan Competition
  • Illinois - mHUB
  • Indiana - Indiana Economic Development Corporation
  • Kansas - Wichita State University
  • Massachusetts - Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (MBI)
  • Michigan - Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University
  • Ohio - Youngstown Edison Incubator Corp. (DBA Youngstown Business Incubator or YBI)
  • Pennsylvania - The Business Center for Entrepreneurship & Social Enterprise
  • South Dakota - South Dakota Biotechnology Council (DBA BioRise)
  • Wisconsin - StartingBlock Madison, Inc

Climate and Renewable Energy

  • California - The Orange County Center for Innovation & Social Enterprise SPC (DBA RevHubOC)
  • District of Columbia - American Council on Renewable Energy
  • Florida - Seaworthy Foundation, Inc. (dba Seaworthy Collective)
  • Virginia - Hanover County Clean Technology Innovation Center (dba Dominion Energy Innovation Center)

Underserved Communities

  • Arkansas - University of Arkansas, Fayetteville
  • District of Columbia - 2Gether International Inc
  • Florida - The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees (dba Florida High Tech Corridor)
  • Georgia - Black Innovation Alliance (BIA) Idaho - Actuate Boise, Inc. (dba Trailhead)
  • Iowa - The New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative, Inc (dba NewBoCo)
  • Maine - Central Maine Growth Council Dirigo Labs Business Accelerator
  • Maryland - UpSurge Baltimore Community Inc
  • Michigan - BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting LLC
  • North Carolina - NC Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce
  • Ohio - State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI)
  • Puerto Rico - Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust
  • Tennessee - FoundersForge Texas - VILCAP Inc (dba Village Capital)

For more information please visit:

2023 Competition Details

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers $50,000 to $200,000 in prize awards for impactful and inclusive approaches to foster a thriving, collaborative national innovation support ecosystem to advance research and development (R&D) from ideas to impact.

By fostering connections between entrepreneurs, advisors, mentors, partners, philanthropies, corporations, investors, and other shared resources, the 2023 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) catalyzes strategic ecosystem partnerships to build community and organizational capacity for the successful launch, growth, and scale of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)-based entrepreneurs and startups.

2023 Competition Goals:

  • Increase the pipeline and success of STEM/R&D-focused entrepreneurs and small businesses;
  • Increase the success of STEM/R&D-focused entrepreneurs in accessing capital and resources to advance their businesses;
  • Incentivize innovation ecosystem stakeholders to provide equitable access to resources for underserved communities and industries;
  • Catalyze partnerships and relationships between stakeholder groups to strengthen the national innovation ecosystem; and
  • Connect both new and established participants in the national innovation ecosystem

2023 Prizes awarded in Two Stages:

Stage One: $50,000 cash prizes awarded to organizations (Catalysts) to catalyze relationships between aligned stakeholders (Ecosystem Partners) that lead to the development of Growth Accelerator Partnerships. Catalysts work collaboratively with Ecosystem Partners to bring additional resources, deepen network connections, and develop strategies that amplify the impact and success of the Growth Accelerator Partnership and the STEM/R&D-focused entrepreneurs and small businesses it serves.

SBA encourages creative models for ecosystem building. SBA welcomes Stage One submissions from a broad range of organizations with a collaborative vision to nurture a national ecosystem for equitable access to entrepreneurship.

Stage Two: $50,000 to $150,000 cash prizes awarded to “Growth Accelerator Partnerships” to provide assistance to entrepreneurs that transition R&D into the marketplace. The Growth Accelerator Partnership provides startups and small businesses with additional support and resources.

SBA accepts Stage Two submissions from Growth Accelerator Partnerships; submissions are prepared jointly by Stage One Catalysts and Ecosystem Partners and organizations present their proposal to successfully accelerate the launch, growth, and scale of diverse STEM/R&D-focused small businesses.

View the recording of the GAFC informational webinar and download the webinar slides for a better understanding of competition rules and guidelines.


Note: The Competition is not intended to provide capital directly to companies for R&D projects.

2021 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition and SBIR Catalyst Competition Results

The 2021 competition features 84 winners for the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) and eight winners for the SBIR Catalyst competition, a new component aimed at spurring investment in underrepresented communities within the innovation economy at scale, receiving a combined total of $5.4 million in awards.innovation-focused entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) with programs to speed the launch, growth, and scale of deep-tech small businesses across the country.

The winners come from 48 states, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia and have been awarded based on their proposals for innovative ideas that inclusively support entrepreneurs researching and developing STEM-related innovations.

Two prize tracks were run simultaneously:

Track 1 - Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC)—The winners of the GAFC are accelerators and incubators who proposed targeted assistance to STEM/R&D entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, including women, people of color, rural, and veteran entrepreneurs. The GAFC prize winners support a broad range of industries including clean energy, supply chain resilience, and infrastructure. Many accelerators and incubators also work to expand the participation of innovation-focused small businesses located in HUBZones. GAFC winners will each receive a $50,000 prize.

Track 2 - SBIR Catalyst—The winners of the SBIR Catalyst competition facilitated eight collaborative partnership proposals aimed at building connections across entrepreneur support organizations that foster innovation driven entrepreneurs from underserved communities. The winners are recognized connectors across programs that fund innovation clusters, hubs, and other technology-based economic development initiatives. SBIR Catalyst winners will each receive a $150,000 prize.


2019 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition

The 2019 Competition featured sixty (60) $50,000 prize awards for accelerators working with high-tech entrepreneurs, mainly potential applicants to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Tech Transfer (STTR) programs. Winners proposed at least 60 percent of their competition-related work to entrepreneurs in one of the following groups: women; socially and/or economically disadvantaged individuals; entrepreneurs in states with lower numbers of SBIR/STTR awards; or entrepreneurs living in or whose business was located/operating in an Opportunity Zone. See competition details for more information on the guidelines, and the press release below for the list of winners.



The Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) was first launched by SBA in 2014 to stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship across the country. GAFC prize awards have funded a wide range of accelerators and incubators in an effort to provide increased support to entrepreneurs, particularly in the STEM/R&D innovation ecosystem. Each competition has varied in total prize dollars as well as targeted groups and/or geographies.

Total prize awards since 2014-2021 387
Total prize funds since 2014-2021 $19,350,000
Number of competitions 2014-2021 6
Number of states/territories represented 52
Number of unique winners 284

Past GAFC Announcements

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