MADISON – Eight small high-tech businesses in Wisconsin will receive up to $75,000 each to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding.

The state matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. This is the 10th round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the University of Wisconsin-Extension’s Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) began in 2014.

Since then, 64 awards have been given, equaling $4.7 million throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 173 employees and obtaining $16.5 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

The recipients:

  • Cellara of Madison. Seeks to accelerate scientific discoveries via a global standard software solution, CultureTrax, that directly addresses the critical challenges of stem cell research management, reproducibility and electronic data storage;
  • CompRex, LLC of De Pere. Specializes in the design, engineering and manufacturing of compact heat exchangers and heat exchange reactors targeted for high temperature and pressure applications such as Brayton-cycle supercritical CO2 (sCO2) power systems and process intensification for energy and chemical markets;
  • NCD Technologies of Madison. Specializes in engineering and optimizing new diamond and diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings for improving new application across many industries, including medical device, aerospace, defense and oil/gas;
  • SciArt, LLC. Spun out of UW-Madison. Rethinking design through state-of-the-art generative design technology that includes high-performance design analysis and next generation topology optimization;
  • Varigen Biosciences of Madison. Developing revolutionary natural products (such as antibiotics) by leveraging proprietary BigDNA metagenomic processes to explore the vast biodiversity in our planet’s soil;
  • BrainXell of Madison. Offering human stem cell-based products and services in drug discovery for neurological and psychiatric diseases;
  • Flexcompute of Madison. Provides high-throughput, high-performance computing software solutions in computer-aided engineering; and
  • systeMECH Inc. of Fitchburg. Developing innovative and scalable small-scale manufacturing processes based on bonding and layer transfer for fabricating advanced flexible electronics, photonics, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and semiconductor devices.

The U.S. government created SBIR/STTR programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation, providing $2.5 billion in federal research funding each year. Because those funds cannot be used for commercialization activities, the SBIR Advance program fills the gap. Funds can be used to pursue market research, customer validation, intellectual property work or other areas that speed commercialization.

SBIR Advance grant recipients receive CTC staff support available throughout the commercialization process, including Lean Startup training, business plan review and other consulting.

“SBIR Advance provides Wisconsin companies with a unique advantage over their national competitors,” said Dr. Todd Strother, Program Manager.

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit or e-mail The next solicitation opens in March, with applications due in April; details will be announced soon.

“SBIR Advance fills a critical role in bridging the gap between laboratory research and a market-ready product,” said Aaron Hagar, vice president of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WEDC. “The business development efforts and learning supported by SBIR Advance are just as critical to the success of these companies as the initial research grant.”

SBIR Advance is part of a Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative WEDC is pursuing with the help of the UW System and other business leaders throughout the state to remove barriers to high-tech commercialization. Under the S3 umbrella, WEDC and its economic development partners are implementing financial and operational assistance programs designed specifically to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges. Another S3 collaborative effort between WEDC and the UW System is the Ideadvance Seed Fund, also managed by UW-Extension’s CTC. Selected SBIR Advance participants undergo Ideadvance Lean Startup training that is modified to assist with their SBIR Phase II applications.