SBA Awards FAST Grant to EnterpriseWorks at the University of Illinois


EnterpriseWorks, the tech incubator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Research Park, received a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to further advance its success in stimulating economic growth throughout the state of Illinois. EnterpriseWorks received $125,000 as one of 24 awards granted by the SBA’s Office of Innovation and Technology under the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program.

The FAST grant provides funding to expand training, mentoring, and assistance to help research and development focused small businesses access federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) seed capital. FAST seeks to improve outcomes in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs for underserved communities by increasing participation from women-owned, rural-based, and socially economically disadvantaged small businesses.

“We are very grateful to the SBA for this opportunity to help elevate the State of Illinois ecosystem’s participation in the SBIR program, and our aim is to bring more SBIR funding to Illinois,” said Laura Frerichs, executive director of the University of Illinois Research Park and the EnterpriseWorks incubator.  “We have diligently worked to build support systems for innovative entrepreneurs both here in the Champaign-Urbana tech community and with partners statewide. The FAST Partnership will provide us with more bandwidth and resources to broaden participation in the SBIR program and work more intentionally with underserved communities.”

The FAST Partnership Program provides one-year of funding to organizations that team up with others in their state to help build the innovation ecosystem that is key to helping grow the tech economy in that state. FAST support will fund training programs and workshops as well as individual mentoring, grant preparation assistance, and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and interested applicants. EnterpriseWorks partners with a network of technology consultants, innovators, and entrepreneurs to provide training, technical assistance, and mentoring to technology startup clients locally and across the state. Its team has worked with national, statewide, and local SBIR consultants who specialize in various agencies and technical domains.

EnterpriseWorks has helped R&D focused startups and small businesses to receive 471 SBIR/STTR awards totaling over $154 million, since 2003. Almost $150 million of those funds were awarded to EnterpriseWorks clients and local technology startups. In 2018, 32% of the total SBIR/STTR funding in Illinois was awarded to companies in Champaign County with $16.7 million of those funds being awarded to EnterpriseWorks companies. Its success is attributed to over 10 years of dedicated and consistent SBIR assistance programs that includes SBIR/STTR workshops (program and agency specific), one-to-one SBIR technical assistance and mentoring, I-Corps workshops and training, proof-of-concept microgrants, seed funding opportunities, and networking opportunities with potential partners and investors.

“Our FAST partners address the unique needs of next-generation, high-tech small businesses.  The program supports innovative entrepreneurs from underserved communities by helping them start and grow—a primary mission for SBA,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.  “Programs like FAST are more critical than ever as the SBA is laser-focused on helping small businesses recover and once again propel the national economy forward.  The SBIR and STTR funding can be the early seed capital to jumpstart companies today and make them successful in the future.  Some of our nation’s leading technology firms got their start with SBIR funding, and FAST is helping expand those opportunities to other entrepreneurs.”

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be the Illinois host for the 2020 SBIR Week in the Midwest, scheduled for Oct. 19-22. Participants can register for FREE here.

Additional SBIR/STTR Resources:

  • The Illinois University Incubator Network (IUIN) offers free SBIR/STTR workshops and counseling for select regions in Illinois. More information is online here.
  • EnterpriseWorks hosts free SBIR/STTR workshops each fall and spring, which are available virtually.  The next series starts on Sept. 29.

Source: UIRP News

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