A. It’s a statewide matching grant program that matches federal awards made to Wisconsin businesses under the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. Through the federal SBIR/STTR program, the government helps fund innovative businesses with high-risk, high-reward, high-impact types of ideas. Companies that have already won one of these federal awards can win the matching funding from the state through the SBIR Advance Matching Grant program. The state program helps cover the costs of items prohibited under federal funding, such as product commercialization. Overall, the program aims to fill critical funding gaps for activities such as market research, customer validation, patent development and regulatory assessment, which are restricted under federal awards.
Q. How did the program come to be?
A. The UW-Extension and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) recognized the shortfall of federal funding: companies cannot use federal money for any kind of commercial development, such as patents or market research or hiring business development staff. And the state, with WEDC, determined that those kinds of activities can be extraordinarily helpful for a company to succeed. WEDC created the SBIR Advance Matching Grant so that these companies can get the funding they need to accelerate the commercialization of the product or technology they’re developing.
Q. What types of companies does the grant fund?
A. It is only available to Wisconsin companies that already have SBIR or STTR federal awards. These types of companies typically fall into the technology, research or science sectors. They can be startups with only a few employees, all the way up to a maximum of 500 employees.
Q. What type of funding is available to companies?
A. It’s a grant of up to $75,000 that is dispersed as companies meet a set of agreed upon milestones and deliverables. Companies are also required to finish the Lean Startup and Customer Development curriculum before funding can be dispersed.
Q. How often does the grant fund companies?
A. The grant solicits applications three times per year: in August, January and May. Companies can only apply for matching grant funding once per year.
Q. Are there other requirements to be eligible to apply for funding?
A. Those with Phase 1 federal funding can only apply for a Phase 1 matching grant, and those with a Phase 2 federal funding can only apply for a Phase 2 matching grant.
Q. Anything else you’d like people to know about SBIR Advance Matching Grant funding?
A. The individuals who have won the grants appreciate the discipline of the Lean Startup program which helps them think through their idea and prepare for their Phase 2 proposals. And of course they appreciate the funding, which leads to very tangible results. Even people who haven’t gotten the awards have shared how appreciative they are of the state for providing this funding. They keep submitting proposals to show the state that there’s a demand for this funding, and that it is in fact a very effective and important program.