Newswise — The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that UTEP has been awarded a $500,000 grant to create and expand cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization programs through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) program.

“The engineering program at The University of Texas at El Paso is part of a powerful partnership across our region to advance efforts in the aerospace, manufacturing and energy sectors,” said Theresa Maldonado, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering. “Project lead Dr. Ahsan Choudhuri is a tireless and very effective strategist and leader in these areas of high importance to El Paso and the United States.”

The EDA grant money will be matched by UTEP for a total investment of $1 million and will go toward the development of the Technology Research Innovation Acceleration Park (tRIAC) in Fabens. The University partnered with the County of El Paso on the venture and announced efforts for the area adjacent to the airport in fall 2016.

“This validates UTEP’s future pathway, its impact on the community,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., director of the NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research and tRIAC project lead. “What we envisioned last year is happening. This will help us in building capacity as we prepare for future construction.”

Renovation at the site started in April 2017 in an existing hangar. In recent weeks, students began working in the facility, and the interior of the hangar is taking shape. Once complete, tRIAC will consist of multiple sites, including a test site and data center, a rocket tower and incubator facilities for small businesses.

“The Commissioners Court is proud of our partnership with UTEP to utilize our Fabens airport as a Technology Research and Innovation Acceleration Park,” said El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar. “Not only is this expanding our region’s STEM education opportunities but also building economic development capacity. This grant will expand the tRIAc’s ability to create high-tech and innovative-based small business capacity in aerospace/defense technologies, advanced manufacturing, and energy engineering in an area of our community that hasn’t seen this type of investment. We have no doubt this is the first of many grants to come which will help further expand upon this exciting collaboration.”  

Forty-two organizations – including nonprofits, institutions of higher education and entrepreneurship-focused organizations from 28 states – received over $17 million to create and expand cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization programs, and early-stage seed capital funds through RIS.

This fourth cohort of Regional Innovation Strategies awardees expands the RIS portfolio to eight new states and continues to build vibrant regional entrepreneurial economies. The awardees were selected from a pool of more than 217 applicants.

“The Trump Administration is committed to strengthening U.S. production and exports, which are essential to our nation’s economic growth,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These projects will enable entrepreneurs in communities across the United States to start new businesses, manufacture innovative products and export them throughout the world – increasing America’s global competitiveness.”

The Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), housed within the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), leads the Regional Innovation Strategies Program to spur innovation capacity-building activities in regions across the nation. The program is authorized through the America COMPETES reauthorization Act of 2010, and has received dedicated appropriations since FY2014.

To learn more about the Regional Innovation Strategies program and the awardee projects, visit and the FAQs.