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Championing Innovative Tech Ideas at BioConnect Iowa

Anne McMahon Startup Stories

March 3, 2022


At BioConnect Iowa, Anne McMahon works to help bioscience startups succeed. As the SBIR/STTR statewide program coordinator, she helps Iowa entrepreneurs apply to an SBIR/STTR Outreach Program, which awards funds to startups and small businesses who can help develop and research innovative solutions. 

About BioConnect Iowa 

BioConnect Iowa is a nonprofit, public-private partnership. The company seeks to uncover bio-based products, fuels and companies within the state of Iowa. Previously known as Iowa Innovation Corporation, BioConnect Iowa has been rebranded and now has four core platforms, including medical devices at University of Iowa and within Iowa State University, precision and digital agriculture, immunotherapeutics and vaccines, and bio-based chemicals and products. 

Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Program 

McMahon runs the SBIR/STTR Outreach Program, which works with the Small Business Administration's small business innovation research (SBIR) and small business technology transfer (STTR) programs. Phase one is about feasibility study. Businesses that receive a phase one award, which ranges from $100,000 to $275,000, are provided with $25,000 in financial assistance.  

Those businesses that progress to submission of phase two application are given an additional $25,000, and awards can range from $600,000 up to $1,000,000 in non-dilutive funding depending on the federal agency. Phase two is an aggressive two-year project that includes fuel testing, scaling and prototyping.  

The program is backed through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and technologies funded through 11 different federal agencies that each works as their own small business. BioConnect Iowa applies for grants through the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute of Health (NIH) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). There are also contracts through which the program can get funding, including through the Department of Defense, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Department of Energy

Success for McMahon and the SBIR/STTR Outreach Program lies in the quality of applications to the program. For every dollar the state spends, she needs to show an impact of at least $10 back of federal funding. McMahon has shifted recently to focus on quality over quantity, looking at 50-55 applications per year. 

Secrets to Success for Entrepreneurs 

McMahon shared her own secrets to ensuring success in the SBIR/STTR Outreach Program. These included: 

  1. Time – having the time to apply and a timeline that supports a longer schedule to receive funding 

  2. Coachability – being open to reviews via peer-reviewers and from the outreach team 

  3.  Team – need to have a strong team with credentials and the Principal Investigator (PI) needs to be a W-2 employee of the company or startup founder 

Listen to the entire podcast above to learn more. 

You can also find out more about BioConnect Iowa through the video below

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