SBIR grants are focus of OKC event

A couple of local and state officials plan to make a trip 150 miles to the south to attend the National Small Business Innovation Research Conference in Oklahoma City.

Their travel plans come at the same time the CEO of Kansas Technology Enterprise Corp. said his public-private agency plans to ramp up efforts to help companies tap into the $2 billion SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR, programs.

The programs offer grants to qualifying small businesses for commercialization of their research and development as well as to help federal agencies with their own research and development.

Federal departments and agencies that participate in SBIR include NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the departments of defense, transportation and homeland security, and the National Science Foundation.

The SBIR conference in Oklahoma City will be Nov. 8-10. It will include sessions on how to apply for grants as well as provide one-on-one contact with federal agencies offering SBIR grants.

Kansas officials said the proximity of Oklahoma City made the decision to attend an easy one, especially with money from travel budgets tight.

"It's nice to have something within driving distance," said KTEC CEO Kevin Carr, who in the past has had to travel to Pittsburgh and Denver for National SBIR Conferences.

Carr said SBIR is an important program because "it is a good source of funds... for companies that are trying to move technology or science into a corporate setting."

Although the SBIR grants are typically for high-tech or scientific applications —"A very narrow slice of innovative companies," Carr said — they are a good source of funding for early stage companies that are trying to bring their technology to the market, he said.

" (Grants) are not done as an investment, so (entrepreneurs) don't have to give up stock in their companies" like they would in an equity investment scenario, Carr said.

Over the next few months, KTEC will begin helping Kansas companies by providing them $2,000 or $3,000 that they can use to pay a grant or scientific writer to apply for SBIR grants. It's something KTEC used to do but not in recent years, Carr said.

"A number of companies in our network have been able to capitalize on SBIR," Carr said.

As part of KTEC's plan to stimulate use of SBIR in Kansas, Carr said he will attend the Oklahoma City conference.

So will Wayne Bell, director of the Small Business Administration's Wichita district office.

"I'm going to go down there myself, learn more about the program, tap into the best practices by other cities," Bell said. "We have been contacted by a few local folks about this program."