Unique funding available for small tech

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Of those who dare to dream big, we’re asking for four hours of your time. Two hundred and 40 minutes; 14,400 seconds — about the amount of time it takes you to watch a football game on television.

We’re asking for your time because we want to help you succeed. We want to help build your dreams while making our communities, state and nation better places to live.

On Monday, Sept. 17, the Idaho Small Business Innovation (SBIR) Road Tour will stop in Sandpoint. Experts from Idaho National Laboratory, the Idaho Department of Commerce and Idaho Small Business Development Center will talk about research-based funding opportunities for small technology businesses.

Also on hand will be technology transfer experts from Idaho’s research universities along with federal partners from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Navy, and Missile Defense Agency.

Attendees will hear speakers from state and federal agencies and learn about how tech startups, innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers can:

• Access $2.5 billion in early-stage technology grants and $1 million in commercialization grants through the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission;

• Collaborate with Idaho National Laboratory scientists and researchers.

These opportunities are focused on for-profit businesses with fewer than 500 employees interested in commercializing their products.

And that’s one of the things that is most exciting about the SBIR Road Tour and these funding and collaboration opportunities. This is not an academic exercise. It’s a real effort to help develop technology businesses in Idaho and move useful products into the marketplace as quickly as possible.

It also explains INL’s involvement.

INL is the nation’s lead nuclear research and development laboratory, and a world leader in cybersecurity and broader clean energy research.

As an applied science laboratory, INL focuses on moving scientific discoveries from the drawing board to the marketplace. Your small business needs to make a profit. We understand that and are eager to partner with private industry to bring innovative products to our fellow citizens that will improve their lives and our economy, environment and national security.

Nor is this pie in the sky, an unrealistic endeavor that looks better on paper than in actuality. At the Road Show, you will hear about real Idaho success stories. Such as:

• Voxtel, Inc., which was awarded an SBIR grant by the Department of Energy to explore the use of nanoparticle-synthesis materials to advance the use of performance microwave radome systems. The company worked with researchers at INL and Idaho State University, who jointly developed the nanoparticle technology;

• Idaho Scientific, awarded a $149k SBIR grant by the Department of Energy to prototype and demonstrate a promising processor architecture capable of the mitigating cyber vulnerabilities in critical U.S. infrastructure, like the United States power grid.

Both Voxtel and Idaho Scientific are working to complete phase one of their projects, and are expected to develop a phase two SBIR proposal to scale the technology for commercial deployment.

There have been other Idaho success stories, but not nearly enough. The truth is that other states, including many of our neighbors, have taken far greater advantage of these grant opportunities than Idaho.

From 2016-18, a total of 13 SBIR grants were awarded in Idaho, totaling about $6.1 million in funding.

Compare that to Utah. Over that same time period, Utah companies were awarded 142 grants worth more than $70 million.

Montana companies received 54 grants and nearly $22 million. Oregon companies pursued and received 145 grants worth $71 million. Wyoming (17 grants and $8 million) and Nevada (23 grants, $10 million) are also taking greater advantage than Idaho of this unique opportunity.

But we are determined to change that.

That’s why we’re coming to your backyard. So please, if you think that your company — or that idea that has been percolating in your mind — might benefit from this opportunity, register for the Road Tour.

Give us 14,400 seconds of your time. Let us see if we can help your big dreams come true.

Cook is the program manager for economic and workforce development at Idaho National Laboratory.

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