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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congress is still working through its infrastructure bill, with the ball now in the House's court after the Senate passed its own on Tuesday.

The big picture: Depending on how individual programs are ultimately set up, it could open opportunities for startups.

  • While the U.S. often touts its technological innovation, startups have historically had a strained relationship with government programs and procurement.

State of play: The Senate's bill contains a slew of grant programs for everything from cybersecurity, to alternative fuel recharging infrastructure, and battery recycling and manufacturing.

  • They range anywhere from tens of millions of dollars to several billion for a single initiative.
  • On Thursday, Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Catalyst said it will commit $1.5 billion for joint projects with the U.S. government if Congress enacts a program for tech focused on lowering carbon emissions.

Yes, but: As usual, the devil will be in the details — and specifically whether the fine print makes these programs workable for startups.

  • As we saw when the initial Paycheck Protection Plan came together, a particular rule around "affiliations" threatened to make the program inaccessible to certain startups with venture capital backing.
  • Some programs are delegating the implementation to state and local governments, who can in turn come up with their own rules and requirements that may end up making it harder for startups to participate — and create a framework of inconsistent rules around the country.
  • These are exactly the roadblocks that can turn a national opportunity into a huge miss for American startups eager to provide their cutting edge tech to the public.

Between the lines: Cautious optimism is the overall sentiment from private sector investors.

  • As EQT's Alex Darden recently told Axios' Dan Primack, he's optimistic about the legislation's "tailwinds" but remains frustrated by what he views as a lack of strategic vision.

The bottom line: This historic legislation could either be a boon to startups — and America's infrastructure — or fall short of harnessing innovative startups in its quest to push the country forward.

Editor's note: The story has been corrected to note that it's Breakthrough Energy Catalyst (not the organization's venture arm) committing funds to energy projects.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 13, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Carbon emissions spiking despite clean energy surge

Photo: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

This year is bringing the second-largest global carbon emissions jump on record as fossil fuel use rebounds after 2020's pandemic-fueled downturn, a new International Energy Agency report finds.

Why it matters: It shows how, despite surging renewables, the global energy system remains far from an emissions-slashing pathway that achieves Paris agreement goals for limiting global warming.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and were due to travel to another destination when the gang struck in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

4 hours ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne spent longer under lockdown than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.