“Mother nature has many secrets. It’s our job to discover those secrets and understand the world that we live in.” This sentiment was shared by MN-SBIR Program Director Pat Dillon at last month’s Minnesota Resources for Science and Technology Companies event. Although it’s not the first thing entrepreneurs might expect to hear at a science and technology presentation, the impact of the statement persists.

The organizations recognized within the SciTech Resource Wish-List blog series have earned their status as essential entrepreneurial resources, through the assistance and benefits they provide as well as through the message and mission they support. MN-SBIR at MHTA is one such example.

SBIR/STTR: Supporting the American Dream

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs support the innovation and commercialization of technology for social and economic gain.

As Dillon would tell you, the program exists “to support the American dream, for the scientist or engineer who has an innovative idea or concept with commercial potential – whether that’s a startup company or an existing company.”

SBIR/STTR are routinely called America’s Seed Fund. SBIR/STTR funding has helped startups and small businesses transform their ideas into marketable products and services. The Programs focus on high-risk, high-impact technologies across the spectrum of science, technology and engineering — those that show promise but whose success hasn’t yet been validated — and each year, the federal agencies award more than $2.5B in funding to entrepreneurs across the country. The goals are to foster innovation and help create businesses and jobs in the United States, and companies’ seed funded by SBIR/STTR have accomplished a great deal.

SBIR/STTR funding is non-dilutive; which means the federal government will not take ownership in your company, and you retain the intellectual property derived from your research efforts.

Small businesses are permitted to collaborate with academic institutions in Minnesota (and nation-wide) to assemble a quality team and research effort, therefore increasing their likelihood of receiving funds from one of the 11 participating federal agencies.

Find the Funding You Need

Dillon refers to the agencies as children, “because they each have their own personality and their own way of doing business. Each agency,” she says, “has their own solicitation – a call for proposals – and different funding levels at two of the three phases. Funding is different at each phase. But at the end of the day, it’s a federal grant and contract for research and development.”

It’s SBIR’s job, Dillon went on to explain, to work with companies to identify which program and agencies work best for their project to be competitively awarded funding to support the research and development effort.

You are their customer,” Dillon said, in reference to the company-to-agency relationship. “They have the money and the mission, and you want to make sure you’re a good fit with their interests.”

The homepage for SBIR/STTR provides a “Find Funding” tool to help small businesses perform a quick and easy search to identify agency research areas and topics that match research interests.

SBIR/STTR “funds projects across the spectrum of science, technology and engineering….everything from A to Z,” said Dillon. And with more than $2.5 billion in federal funding every fiscal year, there’s plenty of incentive to compete.

Protecting the Small Business

“SBIR/STTR,” Dillon said, “are the nation’s investment in small businesses.” By reserving a specific percentage of federal R&D funds, SBIR/STTR supports small businesses to innovate and commercialize technologies that drive further investments, jobs, intellectual property, strategic partnerships and research collaborations with academic institutions.

Funding companies at the critical startup and development stage helps to encourage the commercialization of the technology, product, or service the program supports, which, in turn, further stimulates the U.S. and Minnesota’s economy.

Through its ongoing outreach, and the education and coaching that Dillon provides, the program continues to reaffirm itself as an essential asset for the stimulation of technological innovation and business development, both in Minnesota and nation-wide.

Pat Dillon is the program director at the MN-SBIR. Apart from her role as an essential resource for the Minnesota high-tech entrepreneurial ecosystem, she’s also an ardent supporter of SciTech. Pat can be reached at pdillon@mhta.org or at 952-230-4540.

MN-SBIR is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, University of Minnesota, Office of Technology Commercialization and MHTA.