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Here's How to Get Access to 'America's Seed Fund'

Iowa Innovation Corporation

October 2, 2018

Small businesses in Greater Des Moines (DSM) and in the rest of Iowa have the opportunity to access federal grants with the assistance of the Iowa Innovation Corp (IICorp).

Those grants are through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. They are highly competitive and encourage small businesses to engage in federal research or research and development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR/STTR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated, and the U.S. gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.

This Small Business Association (SBA) backed program is referred to as “America’s Seed Fund”. This program provides more than $2 billion per year in non-recourse contracts and grants to small U.S.-owned companies to develop new products and services that are based on innovative, unproven concepts and technologies. It’s designed to increase the rate of successful grant applications for Iowa’s innovative businesses seeking federal grants in these programs. 

The SBIR Program is structured in three phases:

Phase I

The objective of Phase I is to establish the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of the proposed project. SBIR/STTR Phase I awards normally do not exceed $150,000 total costs for six months.

Phase II

The objective of Phase II is to expand the results of, and further purse the development of Phase I. Funding is based on the results achieved in Phase I and the scientific and technical merit, and commercial potential of the project proposed in Phase II. Only Phase I awardees are eligible for a Phase II award. SBIR Phase II awards normally do not exceed $1 million total costs for two years.

Phase III

The objective of Phase III is to “commercialize” the result of Phase II. The SBIR program does not fund Phase III.  One may use private money or non-SBIR federal funding. 

Eleven different Federal agencies fund various research and development projects through a three-phase program. Each agency has their own set of eligibility and rules to follow. Some agencies have grants, while others have contracts. Each agency administers its own individual program within guidelines established by Congress. These agencies designate R&D topics in their solicitations and accept proposals from small businesses. Awards are made on a competitive basis after proposal evaluation.

There are three resources IICorp offers to assist Iowa companies:

Proposal idea review

The Iowa Innovation Corporation has contracted with Grow Emerging Companies to provide one-hour reviews of potential Phase I SBIR Ideas.

Third party proposal assistance

Assistance covering 100 percent of the fee for professional proposal assistance from an IICorp approved third party vendor for SBIR/STTR Phase I and II applications.

Matching financial assistance

Financial assistance of up to $50,000 to match on Phase I through Phase II awards from IICorp.

Learn more about The Partnership’s business resources offerings, including connecting locally, globally, workplace wellness, inclusion and more on the Business Resources page.

Anne Price

Anne Price joined Iowa Innovation Corp (IICorp) in November 2017 as program coordinator. She previously was a nanny for a private family and facilitated Venture School with the University of Iowa. At IICorp, Anne serves as the statewide Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Tech Transfer (STTR) program coordinator. As a state coordinator, Anne works to advance SBIR/STTR activities in Iowa to help increase the number of federal grants to companies in the state. She works closely with businesses, research and educational institutions, federal program managers and statewide service providers to accelerate projects with significant commercial potential. Anne is interested in cultivating community and business relationships in addition to connecting resources.