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Turning Innovation Into Enterprise


National SBIR Road Tour Visits Morgantown

More than 125 individuals attended the 2016 National SBIR Road Tour conference in Morgantown on July 19 to learn about what is often called “America’s largest seed fund.” SBIR Road Tour image

The very competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program encourages small businesses to engage in scientific research and development that has the potential for commercialization. The commercialization is key: SBIR awards must lead to a new product or technology in the marketplace, as opposed to basic research that adds to the body of scientific knowledge.

For those who qualify, grant awards can be substantial and help the company get to market quicker.

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John Williams, U.S. SBA, addresses the audience.

At the event in Morgantown, SBIR program managers from ten agencies described their scientific research priorities, offered tips on navigating the SBIR process, and met one-on-one with individuals to discuss potential applications.

John Williams, Director of Innovation and Technology for the U.S. Small Business Administration, noted that Morgantown is one of 20 cities that the SBIR Road Tour visited this year.

“The SBIR/STTR program spends about $2.5 billion a year on research and development, which comes from funds provided by all of the participating agencies.  We want to make sure West Virginia firms and researchers are aware of the program and the opportunities that exist with it,” he added.

Several SBIR program managers cited well known products that received early stage funding from the SBIR program, including the Sonicare toothbrush and Lasik eye surgery technology.

In the SBIR program, agencies seek compelling and revolutionary ideas that significantly advance their mission, as opposed to ideas that support incremental change.  Susan Nichols of DARPA said they are interested in all kinds of concepts that will support the nation’s warfighters, and encouraged participants to “think boldly and embrace risk.”

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Participants meet one-on-one with agency officials.

“Growing small businesses in West Virginia is critical if we hope to diversify our economy and create good paying jobs for state residents. Small businesses—especially those developing technologies and technical products—may discover that SBIR funding can be a key part of their early stage investment strategy,” said Anne Barth, executive director of TechConnect West Virginia.

Phase I awards are typically up to $150,000 over a six-month period; a Phase II award can be up to $1.5 million over two years.

“Getting an SBIR award is not an easy process, but it can be very worthwhile in that the funding is non-dilutive, meaning there are no strings attached as there might be with other types of early stage investments,” she added.

The goal of the SBIR Road Tour is to encourage more applications in areas of the country that do not receive a large number of SBIR awards, including West Virginia.

To learn about the different types of research priorities, small businesses and entrepreneurs can sign up for each agency’s solicitation listserv for notices that include filing deadlines and topic areas.

The agency presentations can be viewed here.  Agencies represented at the Morgantown event included the Department of Commerce—National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST); The National Institutes of Health; the National Science Foundation; Department of Agriculture (USDA); Department of Energy (DOE); Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Department of Defense – (USN); Department of Defense – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO); and Small Business Administration (SBA).

Monika Jaennson with Dinsmore & Shohl, an expert in intellectual property law, discussed recent changes in patent law and ways to protect IP the during development process.

The day’s discussion also included lessons learned by companies that have pursued and were awarded SBIR awards. Attendees also learned more about the local expertise and resources that are available to assist companies interested in SBIR opportunities.

The SBIR Road Tour in West Virginia was supported by a group of co-sponsors, including: SBA’s West Virginia District Office, TechConnect West Virginia, the WV High Technology Foundation/INNOVA, WV Small Business Development Center, WV SCORE, WV Regional Technology Park, Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing, Chemical Alliance Zone, Marshall University, West Virginia University, and Charleston Area Alliance.

Cosponsorship Authorization 16-0390-155: SBA’s participation in this cosponsored activity is not an endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any cosponsor or other person or entity. All SBA programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.