Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann announced this past July a partnership between the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (OSBE), and Elevate Ventures to help small businesses tap into the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These programs offer non-dilutive funding to small businesses to develop and hopefully commercialize new technologies. Last year alone, the federal government distributed nearly $2 billion of these awards to small businesses in a variety of different industry sectors. Only 32 Indiana businesses were part of that distribution. The state’s new program is intended to boost that number. Through this new partnership, the Indiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which operates under OSBE, is offering small businesses free technical assistance with the complicated SBIR and STTR proposal-writing process. This assistance includes help with the identification of research topics that best align with the company’s expertise or technological vision. Additionally, Elevate Ventures is utilizing the 21st Century Research & Technology Fund to supplement proposals (Phase 1 only) with a support letter committing $0.50 of additional funding for every federal dollar awarded, up to $50,000. More is still needed, though. In addition to technical and financial assistance, which improve a company’s odds of winning an SBIR or STTR award in the first place, the bigger priority for our state’s economy is to help small businesses commercialize resulting technologies and transform them into sources of long-term revenue. Commercialization, after all, is the goal of this entire program, and it leads to something we all care about: new jobs. So how do we support small, high-tech companies in a more comprehensive way? For starters, we need to facilitate more collaboration and connectivity within Indiana’s diverse SBIR/STTR community. We need to connect SBIR and STTR award recipients with large businesses and university programs around the state that can bring a higher level of technical expertise, business acumen, or financial resources to the development process. We need to encourage, and perhaps provide incentives for, research partnerships between these entities, and maybe even incentivize research that is better aligned with existing or projected commercial activities in the state. We also need representatives from Indiana’s SBIR/STTR community to convene regularly, build personal relationships, and exchange ideas that have potential to rise the tide for all involved. Such a gathering occurred last month. On Dec. 5, the Indiana Aerospace & Defense Council and Rolls-Royce co-hosted a multi-industry event to support the state’s new program. The event, titled Fueling Innovation and Business Growth through Federal R&D Programs, featured remarks from the Lieutenant Governor, as well as panel discussions with industry, university and federal government representatives. Elevate Ventures and the Indiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center also spoke with attendees about their services. This event offered a variety of perspectives and best practices to help Hoosier businesses better leverage federal R&D programs. Small businesses (Aerodyn Engineering, Go Electric, IN Space, CreateAbility, Wolf Technical Services, and SkySight Technologies) shared both success stories and lessons learned in their attempts to commercialize federally funded technologies, and they also articulated how the state’s matching funds program helps companies move farther down the commercialization path. Conversely, large businesses (Rolls-Royce, Ultra Electronics, Raytheon, and Exelis) talked about how they are partnering with small businesses across the country to support their own technology development and commercialization efforts, and university panelists (Purdue, IU, Rose Hulman, IUPUI, and IPFW) shared with attendees their respective efforts to help small businesses bring new technologies to market. As the state’s SBIR/STTR program moves forward, and more small businesses attract federal research and development funding, events like this need to continue. We need to keep a sharp focus on commercialization, and these sorts of gatherings ensure that small businesses in our state have a well-functioning and active network of resources available at their disposal. Ryan Metzing is Director of the Indiana Aerospace & Defense Council (IADC), a Conexus Indiana initiative to support and grow Indiana’s aerospace and defense sector. Author: Ryan Metzing – Director, Indiana Aerospace & Defense Council Source: http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/contributors.asp?ID=3112
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