The Cove @ UCI was bustling with activity for the Orange County/Inland Empire stop of the SBIR Road Tour. The U.S. Small Business Administration conducts this outreach effort to convey funding opportunities not requiring the sale of company shares, which are provided through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Depending on the agency, SBIR/STTR grants range up to $150,000 for the first award, known as Phase I concept development, and up to $3 million in potential Phase II grants. Follow-on grants after the initial award are administered in a non-competitive fashion based on what is achieved in Phase I.
Thirteen federal agencies participated in the event, representing both the SBIR and STTR programs, which cumulatively provide $2.5 billion in funding annually to small advanced technology firms to spur new discoveries and facilitate the commercialization of innovations. Participating agencies included the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the Department of Defense (DoD). Over 400 one-on-one meetings took place between participating agencies and attendees, including many female and minority-owned businesses, in addition to entrepreneurs from across the region. Instructional panels were held throughout the day, with topics ranging from how to partner with different federal agencies, the differences between granting and contracting agencies, how to write a winning proposal, common mistakes to avoid, and what resources exist beyond SBIR/STTR funding.
The Orange County/Inland Empire stop was made possible thanks to partnerships with the Orange County/Inland Empire Small Business Administration District Office, UC Riverside, TriTech SBDC, OCTANe, and advocates in Washington, D.C. who worked with UCI to add the region to the tour. Nearly 300 people were in attendance. For attendees to get the most out of their one-on-one meetings, nearly 200 participants attended pre-event workshops organized by Applied Innovation in collaboration with community partners.
Continuing the momentum generated from the SBIR Road Tour, UCI Applied Innovation appointed Ray Wells as a research translation specialist to coordinate SBIR and STTR activity for the organization moving forward. Wells was previously a senior technology transition agent for the Air Force SBIR Commercialization Program at the Los Angeles Air Force Base (LAAFB) Space and Missile Systems Center. His career includes roles with the California Space Authority administering projects, coordinating programs and initiatives for the Department of Labor Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant, in addition to developing and running programs and services at SBA’s Venture Point SBDC, a precursor to TriTech SBDC, a small business development center providing resources and guidance for early-stage high tech companies. Wells negotiated funding from federal agencies and prime major defense contractors for the commercialization and transition of SBIR/STTRs for the support of the war fighter and worked with startup companies from idea and concept to funding.