RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Free of equity and debt, federally funded programs like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) seem like a no-brainer for early-stage startups.
But there’s a flipside: Like most government programs, preparing applications for these awards can be long and tedious, especially for fledgling entrepreneurs already consumed with growing their businesses.
Enter the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (NC SBTDC) headquartered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The group has scheduled two webinars to help entrepreneurs navigate the process.
.There’s also an attractive state grant program just announced by the One North Carolina Small Business Program, a key source of capital for emerging technology companies, administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce on behalf of the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology & Innovation (BSTI). For the first time since 2009, the state will not only match awarded federal grants but will now help fund companies’ efforts to prepare and submit initial SBIR or STTR proposals to the federal government.
“Innovative companies can take root in every corner of our state, and today’s enhancements to the One North Carolina Small Business Program will diversify and extend opportunities for our state’s tech-oriented small businesses, wherever they’re located,” said North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Machelle Baker Sanders. “For eligible companies based in more economically distressed areas, larger awards or relaxed eligibility restrictions will open the door for more people to grow their companies in North Carolina.”
John Ujvari, SBIR/STTR program specialist, told North Carolina Biotechnology Center that “The SBIR/STTR programs have become more competitive over the past several years. Phase 1 award rates are approximately 15%. Oftentimes a first-time submission is not funded, but persistence is the key.”
The first webinar, “NC SBIR/STTR Match and Incentive Program Overview,” will be held on Feb. 10 at 2 p.m.
Speakers include John Hardin and David Kaiser of the BSTI, who will discuss the One North Carolina Small Business Program that includes a budget of around $5 million. It comprises two programs: the SBIR/STTR Phase I Incentive Funds Program, and the SBIR/STTR Phase I Matching Funds Program.
Applications recently opened for both programs.
Phase I Incentive provides reimbursement to qualified North Carolina businesses for a portion of the costs incurred in preparing and submitting Phase I SBIR or STTR proposals to federal agencies. Phase I Matching awards matching funds to North Carolina businesses that have received a federal Phase I SBIR program or SBIR award.
The duo will cover eligibility, and how to apply, during the first workshop.
Major funding boost
“The One North Carolina Small Business Program received the largest funding amount in its history this year,” said Michael Cunningham, BSTI Chair. “Recognizing the need to ease the ongoing impact of the coronavirus on the state’s innovation ecosystem, the Board is activating both the Incentive and Matching grants to help fund new technologies, create jobs, and enhance economic development across a variety of industry sectors, including life sciences, military/defense, chemicals, agriculture, computers, communications, pharmaceuticals, energy, materials, and others.”
Ujvari will host the second workshop, “SBIR/STTR Federal Funding Programs Overview,” on February 15 at 2 p.m.
The 60-minute session will cover funding levels and phased process, participating agencies, how to identify agency interests, differences between SBIR/STTR and key points to increase competitiveness.
“Having a clear set of R&D aims and milestones, securing team members with appropriate technical expertise and requesting that other technical experts and business development professionals, such as the SBTDC, to review your proposal prior to submission [can help],” said Ujvari.
Federal SBIR and STTR grants are the single largest source of early-stage technology development and commercialization funding for small businesses—more than $3.2 billion annually nationwide. North Carolina is among a handful of forward-thinking states with incentive and matching grant programs that leverage federal technology funding to help homegrown businesses commercialize innovative technologies and create jobs.
The One North Carolina Small Business Program supports early-stage companies at a critical point, shortening the time between their startup and the point where they become large, sustainable companies. Many past recipients say the vital injection of capital from the state put their companies on a successful trajectory. Since 2006, the Program has helped more than 290 companies in 25 counties, resulting in nearly one-thousand North Carolina jobs, hundreds of high-tech products, and the generation of more than $515 million in capital investments.
Applications to the One North Carolina Small Business Program can be accepted until June 30, 2022, or until funds have been exhausted for the program’s 2021-2022 fiscal year funding cycle.
(C) N.C. Biotech Center