Expanding Frontiers Wins Inaugural STEM Talent Challenge from U.S. Department of Commerce

Economic Development Administration’s Program Supports Efforts of Seven Organizations in Seven States

January 20, 2021

BROWNSVILLE, TX – A nonprofit organization devoted to developing commercial space, energy, and technology startups in South Texas is one of the winners of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s inaugural STEM Talent Challenge.

Expanding Frontiers, which was started in Brownsville in 2019, was one of just seven incubator/accelerators across the country to win an award up to $300,000. The grant will support the growth of Expanding Frontiers’ Space Entrepreneur in Residence Apprenticeship Program, which provides time, training, support, and acceleration tools for entrepreneurs starting businesses in the space and energy industries.

“We are so grateful to and gratified by the Economic Development Administration’s decision to support our work in South Texas,” said Fredrick Jenet, PhD, co-founder and executive director of Expanding Frontiers. “This enormous vote of confidence in Brownsville and our organization will help us have a more substantial impact in developing the region’s commercial space economy more quickly. The Expanding Frontiers team wants to acknowledge and thank the City of Brownsville, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation, and the Brownsville Independent School District, who have supported and encouraged our efforts from the very beginning. Congressman Vela and his office have been instrumental in making this happen.”

“I commend Expanding Frontiers and Dr. Jenet for working closely with the City of Brownsville, the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation and the Brownsville Independent School District to create this outstanding opportunity for our community,” said Congressman Filemon Vela. “I look forward to seeing the lasting impact this program will have on South Texas, and will continue to work to provide exciting opportunities and experiences like this one for the students and entrepreneurs of the 34th District of Texas.”

“The City of Brownsville has never had more momentum, and this grant from the Economic Development Administration represents a tremendous vote of confidence in our community and what we can achieve together,” said Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross on Tuesday announced the seven grant recipients of the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) STEM Talent Challenge to boost local science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) talent.

The inaugural STEM Talent Challenge funding opportunity kicked off in August 2020 to further build STEM workforce readiness and spur innovation across the nation. Awardees include nonprofits, a Native American tribal government, a community college, universities, and entrepreneurship-focused organizations with projects in emerging and transformative sectors such as space commerce, aeronautics, digital manufacturing, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity.

“Awardees’ projects will foster the future of work while supporting high-growth, high-wage entrepreneurial ventures, industries of the future, and other innovation-driven businesses,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

“Strong STEM talent fuels innovation and entrepreneurship in regional innovation economies across America,” said Dana Gartzke, Performing the Delegated Duties of the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “This grant challenge invests in workers through work-and-learn programs and apprenticeships, and these individuals become the backbone of robust innovative and entrepreneurial economies.”

“Congratulations everyone in the Expanding Frontiers team. Nice job winning a very competitive competition for funding. Of the seven awardees, ExF is the only one focused on Space Commerce,” Dr. Sean Casey, founder and director of the Silicon Valley Space Center and co-founder of the New York Space Alliance.

The seven awardees were selected from a pool of 80 applicants.

About Expanding Frontiers

Expanding Frontiers is a nonprofit organization based in Brownsville, Texas, recognized by the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, the Department of Energy, and the Economic Development Agency, and is devoted to developing the commercial space ecosystem in South Texas. Founded in 2019, Expanding Frontiers provides programs for students, veterans, and entrepreneurs intended to introduce them to the emerging commercial space industry. The organization is also an incubator for startup companies and offers training, mentorship, access to capital, exposure to industry experts, and shared office space. Expanding Frontiers is strategically collaborating with NASA, the Silicon Valley Space Center, the New York Space Alliance, and the National Space Society. 


Fredrick A. Jenet, Co-founder and Executive Director, Expanding Frontiers fjenet@expandingfrontiers.org

EDA Public Affairs Department, (202) 482-4085

See full list of recipients on the U.S. Department of Commerce website.

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