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NIFA Small Business Grants Support i6 Green Challenge Investment to Promote Clean Energy Innovation and Job Creation

Media Contact: Scott Elliott, (202) 720-7185

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30, 2011 –The Obama Administration has announced the six winners of the i6 Green Challenge, an initiative to drive technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in support of a green innovation economy, increased U.S. competitiveness and new jobs.

Projects in Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New England and Washington will each receive up to $1 million from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and up to $6 million in additional funding and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, and Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology and United States Patent and Trademark Office.

“The i6 Green Challenge program encourages environmental quality and the creation of green jobs,” said Chavonda Jacobs-Young, acting NIFA director.  “Improving energy efficiency and developing renewable energy are major R&D goals for the 21st century, and we are pleased that NIFA can support the i6 Green Challenge with two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grants.”

Winning i6 Green applicants will support emerging technology-based businesses as they mature and demonstrate their market potential, making them more attractive to investors and helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas and innovations into businesses.

NIFA will provide $100,000 each in SBIR Phase II grants to two current USDA SBIR Phase II grantees in Florida that are cooperating with the Igniting Innovation Cleantech Acceleration Network:

  • JDC Phosphate, Inc., is commercializing technology that promises to have a profound effect on West Central Florida by converting low-grade phosphate rock into high-grade phosphate products without any high-volume waste.  There is far more low-grade rock than high-grade phosphate rock in Florida, so this new technology will expand the phosphate resource by many decades and can add to the 35,000 jobs that currently depend upon this industry throughout most of the 21st century.

  • Mainstream Engineering is developing a biogas-tolerant engine-generator for small anaerobic digester systems.  Anaerobic digesters are used on farms to produce renewable methane-rich biogas from dairy and swine manure.  However, producing electrical power from the biogas is complicated by the presence of corrosive sulfur compounds in the biogas.  As a result, existing digesters must pre-treat the biogas to remove the sulfur, a process that adds considerable operating and maintenance costs.  Mainstream is developing a system that can run on raw biogas without pretreatment, thereby improving the profitability of anaerobic digester systems and catalyzing the development of this clean, renewable, distributed power source.

The winning projects of the i6 Green Challenge include:

  • Orlando, Fla.: Igniting Innovation Cleantech Acceleration Network
  • Ames, Iowa: Iowa Innovation Network i6 Green Project
  • Holland, Mich.: Proof of Concept Center for Green Chemistry Scale-up   
  • New England: iGreen New England Partnership 
  • Ruston, La.: Louisiana Tech Proof of Concept Center     
  • Washington: Washington Clean Energy Partnership Project


First announced at the White House launch of Startup America in January, i6 Green Challenge focuses on promoting Proof of Concept Centers methodologies.  These methodologies support all aspects of the entrepreneurship process, from assisting with technology feasibility and business plan development, to providing access to early-stage capital and mentors that can offer critical guidance to innovators.

For more information on i6 Green Challenge and the winners, click here.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future.  More information is available at:


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