For Immediate Release

June 18, 2024


John Lyon
Strategic Communications Manager


LITTLE ROCK ― Entrepreneurs, scientists, agricultural leaders and other innovators with ideas for advancing the health and economy of the Mississippi Delta region of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana are encouraged to enter the inaugural Delta Innovator Search.

The Rural Innovation Alliance, a multistate initiative committed to transforming the Delta region into a thriving, diversified and integrated economic driver, will accept applications for the search through July 30 at

The search, part of a planning process launched in May 2023 and funded by the National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines program, will identify new solutions that have the potential to advance the region’s economy and contribute to better health outcomes for Delta residents. Solutions could include new goods or products, scientific or technical innovations, services, business models, financial strategies or other projects that help build the necessary infrastructure for resilient economic growth in the Delta. Projects should align with at least one of three target categories: 

  • Scientific or Technical Innovations — New approaches that address the Delta’s unique needs and opportunities, ranging from nontraditional rural health delivery to agricultural innovations such as specialty crop developments or resilient farming practices.
  • Economic or Financial Innovations — New business models or financial strategies designed to strengthen the region’s economic base by engaging and empowering Delta residents and communities.
  • Community Impact 2040 — Strategies thoroughly grounded within and committed to making a long-term, positive impact on local Delta communities, including advancements in economic resiliency and improvements in rural health outcomes.

“Our alliance believes that with dedicated support, it is possible to seed, incubate and translate these innovations into tangible outcomes that will have a positive economic and societal impact on the region,” said Dr. Joe Thompson, president and CEO of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, one of the leading partners in the alliance. “This search is an integral next step in our planning process to outline a strategy that leads to the development of new businesses, innovative technologies, creative workforce development programs and inclusive wealth creation in the Delta.”

Applicants selected as finalists will present their proposals to the Rural Innovation Alliance and its partners at a showcase and awards banquet in September. At the showcase, innovators will be selected to receive awards of $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 to support their initiatives, in addition to gaining access to networking support and additional funding opportunities — including a pathway to participate in the upcoming second-phase NSF Regional Innovation Engines grant application process.

Both individual and organization applications are welcome. Applicants must be at least 18 years old and residents of Arkansas, Mississippi or Louisiana or demonstrate authentic partnership with an organization from the area that serves residents.

“Rural health care access, sources of quality food, and other challenges the Delta faces are intertwined with economic resiliency,” said Thompson­­­. “This search presents an opportunity to foster new ideas and innovative leaders from within our own communities with the clear understanding that their success makes the entire region stronger.”

The Delta Innovator Search is part of the National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines program, Advancing Equitable Access to Food and Health Technologies in the Delta (AR, LA, MS). The program seeks to develop a plan to harness the region’s strengths to address key disparities and lay the foundation in the region’s communities for future innovation that will advance the local economies and improve health outcomes for residents.


About the Rural Innovation Alliance

With funding from the National Science Foundation’s Regional Innovation Engines program, the Rural Innovation Alliance works to support the discovery, innovation and development of the entrepreneurial solutions necessary to sustainably and equitably transform the Mississippi Delta’s regional economy. Leading partners include the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement, the Arkansas Rural Health Partnership, the Mississippi-based Delta Health Alliance, Mississippi-based HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union, and Hope Policy Institute), the Louisiana Public Health Institute, and the Louisiana-based Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center. Learn more at: