A biweekly publication for faculty and staff

Campus Wins Innovation Grant

October 22, 2014

UC Merced’s Small Business Development Center Regional Network is the only entity in the state, and only one of 22 in the nation, to win a Federal and State Technology (FAST) grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The $90,900 the SBDC received will provide more information to small-business owners, researchers, faculty members and others to help them prepare grant applications to the federally funded innovation and research and development programs Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). The SBIR/STTR program also provides an opportunity for large companies to develop strategic alliances with successful awardees.

The FAST Program is designed to stimulate economic development among highly motivated and innovative technology-oriented businesses, particularly those owned by women, those that have been socially and economically disadvantaged and those that have not traditionally participated in the SBIR/STTR grants process. This is one more way UC Merced is helping the developing economy in the Central Valley and the state.

“These funds provide us with the opportunity to work with colleagues throughout California to help promote and advance innovative technologies,” UC Merced SBDC Regional Director Diane Howerton said.

Small and mid-size growth-oriented businesses can get expert help from consultants in developing competitive proposals. The SBDC will use some of the money for workshops and outreach across the region and state, as well as strengthen its online commercialization and innovation portal.

For example, the UC Merced Office of Research and Economic Development, the UC Merced Small Business Development Center Regional Network and the Central California IHub will present a workshop entitled “Gain a Competitive Edge in Winning Grants” from noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 20 in the Garden View Dining Room on campus. The session targets small-business owners who want to develop innovative technology products; large companies interested in developing strategic alliances with successful SBIR/STTR awardees; researchers interested in starting their own companies and partnering with small businesses on collaborative research-and-development projects; and organizations and consultants providing support to SBIR/STTR applicants. Topics include the difference between SBIR and STTR programs; changes in the programs and funding limits; commercialization strategy and assistance; deadlines and submission processes; proposal preparation and team building; matching topics with technology; and budget and reporting requirements.

The one-year FAST grants total $2 million and went to state and local economic development agencies, business development centers, colleges and universities to support programs for innovative, technology-driven small businesses. The SBDC network’s mission is to provide entrepreneurs and businesses with high-quality education, consulting, support for innovation, access to information and the tools necessary to build successful sustainable businesses throughout Central California.

“UC Merced’s regional SBDC is an important element in the university’s effort to help drive economic development in the greater San Joaquin Valley,” Vice Chancellor for Research Sam Traina said. “Their efforts will greatly assist us as we strive to create new businesses resulting from the research efforts of our faculty and students.” Proposals were evaluated by a panel of SBIR program managers.

The SBA, the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation jointly reviewed the panel’s recommendations and made awards based on proposal merit. The grant required varying levels of matching funds from each participating state and territory.

“The mission of the SBIR program is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation by investing federal research funds in small businesses. STTR focuses on partnerships between small businesses and America's premier universities and nonprofit research institutions,” SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet said. “It helps ensure that the world's greatest academics and inventors have the resources they need to transform their ideas from the lab to the marketplace.”