With $400k to start, Business Oregon tests build-from-within strategies

Business Oregon, the state’s economic development arm, is revamping its program that helps small businesses tap into federal research and development funds.

The state agency is making $400,000 available for the improved program that will help Oregon businesses compete for what are known as federal Small Business Innovation Research grants or Small Business Technology Transfer grants (collectively they are called SBIR/STTR).

The focus on small businesses is part of the agency’s overall economic development strategy. Business Oregon’s Director Sean Robbins has touted the tactic as a way to build Oregon’s economy from within.

These competitive grants are offered by 16 different federal agencies and are doled out in two phases. A phase I grant is typically up to $150,000 and can lead to a phase II grant, which can run up to $1 million. Unlike private investment, these grants do not require equity, so it is non-dilutive money.

Companies can use these grants to bootstrap and avoid institutional investment.

“It’s a powerful program,” said Robbins.

Last year, Oregon companies secured $23.7 million in funding from several difference agencies including Health and Human Services, Department of Energy and Department of Defense. The average SBIR grant was $420,804 while the average STTR grant was $686,868.

One of the more successful Oregon companies to use this federal program is Aronora, which has received more than $8 million in SBIR grants since 2009. The company is a spinoff from Oregon Health and Sciences University and is developing drugs to treat blood clotting.

Business Oregon’s program will help companies with the initial grant writing process and earmarks $300,000 for a pool of state matching money.

“Often the federal grant prohibits what the federal funds can be used for so we set the state program up to complement the federal funds,” Robbins said. “It’s not for the same expenses but support across the spectrum of expenses.”

Robbins expects the matching funds will help four to six companies.

The focus on small businesses is part of the agency’s overall economic development strategy. Robbins has touted the tactic as a way to build Oregon’s economy from within.

“From my perspective and the state’s perspective, when you have limited dollars to invest you have to seek a high rate of return. Innovation-based jobs produce a higher number of spin-off jobs,” he said. “For every one high-tech job you support it supports five other jobs.”

That multiplier has steered Robbins toward Oregon technology entrepreneurs.

Beaverton-based Quickbeam, which is developing a drug to treat methamphetamine addiction, is working with Business Oregon on a grant application. Portland-based Urology Diagnostic, which is developing a test to detect bladder cancer, has an application pending.

To apply for Business Oregon’s SBIR/STTR program, contact Innovation Strategist Mark Brady at mark.brady@oregon.gov.

Malia Spencer
Staff Reporter-
Portland Business Journal

 

2016-03-04T01:14:23+00:00