In an effort to accelerate innovation in Rhode Island and help local entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses create jobs and compete for approximately $2.5 billion in available federal funding each year from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Commerce RI, and the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC) today hosted a SBIR/STTR Innovators Forum & Workshop.
Reed says the goal of the workshop is to help Rhode Island tech companies and innovators successfully apply for federal funds that will help them develop their products and create jobs in Rhode Island.
"Our state has a tremendous amount of talent and folks who are involved in cutting-edge research and technology. The SBIR and STTR programs are designed to bring together private sector expertise with federal research and development efforts. This can help early stage startups, especially those with promising academic research and commercial potential, leverage their expertise and successfully compete for contracts, grants, or R&D funding," said Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee. "Small businesses are vital to helping strengthen the economic recovery in our state. And I think one of the best ways to grow the Rhode Island economy is by helping companies that are on the cutting edge invest, grow, and hire new workers. Together, we can help make Rhode Island a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow a company and help more local businesses launch their ideas here."
According to the SBA, over the past decade Rhode Island has received nearly $80 million in SBIR and STTR funding. But the application process can be daunting, especially for those applying for the first time. Today, experts were on hand from the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer their insights and expertise on how to craft winning proposals.
"Small businesses need capital to innovate, expand and succeed. Through the federal SBIR/STTR program, small businesses have the opportunity to partner with 11 federal agencies to tap into federal research dollars to meet this need. And, through the Innovate RI Fund, they can receive state grants to defray the cost of applying for SBIR/STTR grants and receive matching funds if they are successful," said Christine Smith, RI Science & Technology Advisory Council Executive Director and Director of Innovation Programs at Commerce RI.
Approximately 70 representatives from Rhode Island companies, colleges, and universities attended the event. The attendees spanned several industries, including manufacturing, biosciences, and information technology. The SBIR/STTR programs provide critical and significant sources of early stage R&D funding to companies developing cutting-edge technologies. But these programs are highly competitive and the grant and contract preparation and submission process can be complicated for first time applicants.
Reed helped pass the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, reauthorizing the two programs through September 30, 2017.
The SBA is responsible for establishing the broad policy and guidelines under which individual federal departments and agencies operate their SBIR and STTR programs.
About SBIR: The Small Businesses Innovation Research program is designed to increase the participation of small, high technology firms in federal research and development (R&D) endeavors, provide additional opportunities for the involvement of minority and disadvantaged individuals in the R&D process, and result in the expanded commercialization of the results of federally funded R&D. Current law requires that every federal department with an R&D budget of $100 million or more establish and operate an SBIR program. SBIR efforts involve a three phase process.
First, phase I awards of up to $150,000 for six months are made to evaluate a concept's scientific or technical merit and feasibility. The project must be of interest to and coincide with the mission of the supporting federal department or agency. Projects that demonstrate potential after the initial endeavor may compete for Phase II awards of up to $1 million, lasting one to two years. Phase II awards are for the performance of the principal R&D by the small business. Phase III funding, directed at the commercialization of the product or process, is expected to be generated in the private sector. Federal dollars may be used if the government perceives that the final technology or technique will meet public needs.
About STTR: The Small Business Technology Transfer program provides funding for research proposals that are developed and executed cooperatively between a small firm and a scientist in a nonprofit research organization and meet the mission requirements of the federal funding agency.
Up to $150,000 in Phase I financing is available for approximately one year to fund the exploration of the scientific, technical, and commercial feasibility of an idea or technology. Phase II awards of up to $1 million may be made for two years. During this period, the R&D work is performed and the developer begins to consider commercial potential.