Small firms can win U.S. grants |

Small firms can win U.S. grants

NNBW Staff


Fritz Grupe, a retired professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, is convinced that small businesses in northern Nevada aren’t getting their share of about $2 billion in available federal funding.

Grupe, who spends part of his retirement from a professorship in computer information systems leading workshops for the Nevada Small Business Development Center at UNR, says 11 federal agencies are required to set aside portions of their budgets for innovative projects developed by small businesses.

“Nevada companies have not been as aggressive at applying for these monies as have companies in many other states,”Grupe says.

“Nonetheless, we do have winners throughout the state.”

The funds, which are grants rather than loans, fall into two categories:

* The small business innovation research program.

* The small business technology transfer program that funds projects in which small businesses partner with universities or research institutes to bring technology out of the lab.

The 11 agencies required to work with small businesses range from the Department of Defense to the National Institutes of Health and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Each of them, Grupe says, brings its own approach to awarding grants.

The Defense Department, for instance, looks for specific solutions to needs it’s identified.

The National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation are somewhat more open.

“Of course, not every good idea a business comes up with will fit a problem identified,” Grupe says.”You have to propose something that meets a federal need.”

Companies also need to convince federal officials that their proposals are realistic and technologically innovative.

Grants follow a three-step process.

First, a company can apply for a six-month grant to do research on the feasibility of its proposal.

These grants, Grupe says, typically run about $70,000 to $100,000.

A second round of grants is available to move the concept from feasibility to development of prototypes.

These grants run as high as $750,000.

Final commercialization of a project, however, doesn’t carry any funding.

Companies either need to sell their products to the federal agency or succeed on their own in the marketplace.

Companies that win grants, Grupe says, keep control of patents, copyrights and other intellectual property.

The Small Business Development Center’s workshops on the grant programs are cosponsored by economic development agencies and venture capital groups in the region.

The next one is set for 1-4 p.m.,March 10.

The cost is $25.

For registration details, call the Small Business Development Center at 784- 1717.