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Federal Research Dollars Help Bring Discoveries to Market

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With federal agencies setting aside $3.7 billion every year to help small businesses bring new innovations to market, a state resource aims to ensure Minnesota companies benefit from some of that funding.

MNSBIR is a division of the Minnesota High Tech Association that works with startups and existing companies across the state, including those based on discoveries at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic, to help them submit competitive applications for federal grants and contracts. The program provides confidential, one-on-one guidance and advice in business development and technology commercialization to help companies interested in funding from the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

It can take millions of dollars to support a new technology as it moves toward the market, said Pat Dillon, director of MNSBIR. Federal grants and contracts provide a crucial form of support, in addition to investor funding, for startup companies working to develop their innovations—especially when the technology isn’t developed enough yet to attract investment.

“If it’s too early for investors, how are you going to fund this?” Dillon said. “SBIR and STTR provide additional funding to support the commercialization effort and minimize the need to ask for investor dollars early on.”

For University researchers, the SBIR and STTR programs have a history of helping bring cutting-edge discoveries in the STEM fields beyond the lab—U startups have won about $33 million in funding from the programs in the past. This year, MNSBIR will continue to collaborate with the Venture Center, part of UMN Technology Commercialization, to ensure researchers and U startups have an opportunity to discuss where SBIR and STTR fit into their commercialization plan, as well as how to get started in the process.

“There’s a lot of foundational work that has to be done early on to make sure the company is on a good pathway towards success,” Dillon said. “What I do on a daily basis is help people navigate through the programs and be very strategic about what it is that they’re trying to accomplish—and what the best way is to achieve that.”

Meet with MNSBIR

Dillon will be at the Discovery Launchpad in McNamara Alumni Center every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to meet with those interested in SBIR and STTR funding. Dillon invites U researchers interested in starting a company based on their discoveries, along with researchers and executives from existing U startups, to set up a time for a 90 minute introduction meeting.

For entrepreneurs and private companies outside of the University community, Dillon requires new inquiries to submit their application to the SBIR/STTR Accelerator, which aims to assist up to 120 companies in developing high-quality SBIR/STTR research proposals to any of the 11 federal agencies.

The Minnesota SBIR/STTR Assistance Office (MNSBIR) is the Minnesota governor’s endorsed resource to provide free and confidential assistance to Minnesota firms. MNSBIR is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the US Small Business Administration, a grant from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, in-kind support from University of Minnesota Technology Commercialization, the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, Collider, and the Minnesota High Tech Association.  

Kevin Coss

Kevin Coss

Kevin is a writer with the Office of the Vice President for Research.

coss@umn.edu

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