Ask the Expert: Grant funds could help move your technology forward

Ask the Expert, Startup Initiatives |

This article first appeared in the Union Leader in December 2020

THE Federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are known as America’s Seed Fund, helping to bring groundbreaking technology to market.

The SBIR/STTR program was established in 1982 to help bring innovative ideas from small companies to the market by engaging in Federal Research/Research and Development grants or contracts to small U.S. businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) defines small businesses as those with fewer than 500 employees.

SBIR funding is from a specific government agency directly to the small business. In the STTR program, small businesses partner with a nonprofit research institution, such as the University of New Hampshire or Dartmouth College, to establish cooperative R&D between the small businesses and the research institutions. The STTR program fosters this technology transfer to help bridge the gap between the performance of basic science and the commercialization of resulting innovations.

The SBIR/STTR program is highly competitive. The application for a small business involves many steps, starting with registering their company on the U.S. Government SAM website and deciding which agency is a good fit for the company’s technology. The program recommends starting the application process at least 10 weeks prior to the deadline for submission to the identified federal agency.

Currently, 11 federal agencies participate in the SBIR program and five of those agencies also participate in the STTR program. Each agency administers its own individual program within guidelines established by Congress. These agencies designate R&D topics in their solicitations. The funding process includes a review panel of experts who look at the technical statement on the proposed project, budget and commercialization plan. Awards are made on a competitive basis after proposal evaluation.

There are three phases of funding for SBIR/STTR. Phase I establishes the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of the proposed R&D project. SBIR/STTR Phase I awards are generally $50,000-$250,000 for six months (SBIR) or one year (STTR) depending on the federal agency.

Phase II funding is based on the results achieved in Phase I and the scientific and technical merit and commercial potential of the project proposed in Phase II. Typically, only Phase I awardees are eligible for a Phase II award. SBIR/STTR Phase II awards are generally $750,000 for 2 years. Lastly, in Phase III some companies, when appropriate, may be involved with follow-on non-SBIR/STTR funded R&D or production contracts for products, processes or services intended for use by the U.S. government.

To help New Hampshire small businesses navigate this funding opportunity, New Hampshire Small Business Development Center is partnering with UNHInnovation to provide business advising and training on SBIR/STTR opportunities. The FOSTER Program will offer entrepreneurs training on SBIR topics and help in preparing SBIR/STTR applications as part of the SBA FAST Grant awarded to UNHInnovation. SBDC is pleased to participate in the FOSTER Program as one of the project partners.

NH SBDC’s SBIR-trained business advisors can meet with companies to discuss the intensive application process and steps involved, for example:

• Completing all registrations — SAM, CAGE, ORCA

• Doing topic research on other similar types of funded projects in SBIR.gov to ensure their product has breakthrough technology/innovation

• Discussing the potential for commercialization of the product

• Developing a schedule for application submission.

To schedule a confidential, no-cost session with an SBDC business advisor contact NH.SBDC@unh.edu and mention the SBIR/STTR FOSTER Program.

The FOSTER Program will be holding free monthly virtual trainings with a consultant from BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting, starting on Dec. 9. This first training will focus on the Dept. of Defense application process and will run from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

The SBIR/STTR program represents a great way for companies to receive needed capital to develop and build their products. The FOSTER website has more information on what the FOSTER program is and how it can help innovators at https://innovation.unh.edu/foster.

The FOSTER program is designed to promote the growth of New Hampshire technology-based small businesses by helping them successfully navigate the SBIR/STTR funding cycle. To learn more about the program and monthly upcoming trainings visit the Foster website.

Julie Glosner is he Merrimack Valley regional director for the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center. She can be reached at 397-2518 or Julie.glosner@unh.edu.