The economic development group housed at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business is launching a new accelerator project to help more early-stage Arkansas firms gain access to federal research funds to commercialize their business ideas.
The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC), based at UALR, announced Wednesday (Nov. 13) that it has initiated the Lab2Launch Accelerator (L2L-Accel) that offers a step-by-step guidance on every aspect of preparing and submitting a strong proposal for the highly competitive federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding program.
The mission of the SBIR program, which is part of the U.S. Small Business Administration, is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR allows early stage startups and small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization, officials said.
“Through SBIR, entrepreneurs can build businesses around their scientific passions and get the funding they need to develop cutting-edge products and technologies,” said ASBTDC Director Laura Fine. “We want to see more SBIR applicants and winners from Arkansas and believe the Lab2Launch Accelerator is a way to accomplish that.”
Led by ASBTDC staff Rebecca Todd and Martial Trigeaud, participants in the local accelerator program will get help with topic selection, budget preparation, writing and editing, market research and more, officials said. Separate six-week cohorts will focus on different federal agencies, starting in January with a class on the National Institutes of Health. A National Science Foundation cohort will follow in March.
Also known as America’s Seed Fund, SBIR and its sister, Small Business Technology Transfer, annually award $2.5 billion in grants and contracts to small firms to pursue the commercial potential of innovative technologies. According to the SBA, companies seeking SBIR funding typically apply multiple times before succeeding. Only 17% of Phase I proposals were funded in 2017, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
ASBTDC is a statewide cooperative partnership between the SBA, UALR’s College of Business and six other institutions of higher education across the state. Others are based at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, University of Arkansas at Monticello and Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.
ASBTDC assists companies at every stage of business development and growth, providing consulting and market research services and educational events for the business community. L2L-Accel is made possible through Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program funding from the SBA.
To give companies based anywhere in the state an opportunity to take part, they may attend sessions virtually or in person. There is no application fee or cost to participate. Spots are limited, so interested companies are encouraged to apply early at this link.