Kentucky Named Recipient of Federal Grant to Grow Research and Innovation Pipeline

The Cabinet for Economic Development will receive $125,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration to launch a program preparing more entrepreneurs to compete for federal research and development funding. 

The SBA’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) partnership program funds initiatives that increase the number of proposals for Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding. With the grant, the Cabinet will establish the Kentucky Innovation Investment Program (KIIP) as a hub for attracting, assisting and maximizing assets of top SBIR/STTR candidates.

FAST funds will allow the Cabinet to implement a pilot program of outreach, recruitment, analysis and expert advice intended to deepen and improve the quality of Kentucky’s SBIR/STTR pool. KIIP’s three main objectives are to:

  •  Align SBIR/STTR opportunities with economic and tech development needs. 
  • Develop more competitive SBIR/STTR proposals to maximize the probability of receiving funding.
  • Provide supplemental support for SBIR/STTR-funded companies. A dedicated KIIP fund will build over the next five years along with the growing number of funded companies.

Kentucky already has one of the most aggressive initiatives to encourage innovators to locate in Kentucky by matching dollar-for dollar any federal SBIR/STTR funding. Brian Mefford, executive director of the Cabinet’s Office of Entrepreneurship, said this new program should accelerate that growth

“This will make what has been a strong policy even more powerful,” Mefford said. “Our full match for companies in Phase I and II of SBIR/STTR, along with the framework we recently released, make this one of the most attractive places in the country to pursue research and technology transfer that can be capitalized. The FAST grant will allow us to build a robust program that ensures many more entrepreneurs will have access to SBIR/STTR funding and a much greater number of innovations and companies will take flight. This fits perfectly with our work to ramp up commercialization of IP among our research institutions and to establish a more vibrant entrepreneurial economy driven by regional strengths. It truly helps take us to the next level.”

People with a great idea and plan for a technology company can often use SBIR/STTR support to turn their idea into a marketable invention. 

For example, previous SBIR and Kentucky match recipient Bexion Pharmaceuticals of Covington turned its discoveries – made under a microscope – into revolutionary cancer treatments that are working. The company’s founders observed a new way to target tumor cells, but needed to delve further. With SBIR support through the National Cancer Institute, and matching funds from Kentucky, Bexion was able to study the disease, develop potentially life-saving treatments and draw the kind of investment it takes for small businesses to reach the entire world. 

Bexion's first-of-its-kind treatment is already helping people as it advances through the trial phases of drug approval and draws attention from leading scientists and venture capitalists alike. KIIP will identify and attract a greater number of companies like Bexion, assisting them in receiving the critical funding they need to succeed.

Terry Gill, secretary of the Cabinet, said the grant and the state’s program would create opportunity for more entrepreneurs. 

“This is a big win for Kentucky and current and future high-tech entrepreneurs,” Sec. Gill said. “SBIR/STTR have been attractive programs for Kentucky’s innovators and we want to empower more of those people on the cutting edge to conduct their research and build their companies here. This will help us increase the amount of high-tech research, development and commercialization throughout the state.” 

Kentucky has a long track record of leveraging the SBIR/STTR programs with its match for Phase I and II federal awardees. In the past decade, Kentucky has allocated more than $60 million in state Phase I and II SBIR matching grants, which helped launch and attract dozens of companies. In June, the state released its guidelines for its match program that emphasizes the ability to commercialize. Applications are currently being accepted for upcoming rounds.

SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in federal research/research and development that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. The STTR program expands funding opportunities for federal innovation research and development by forming joint ventures for small businesses and nonprofit research institutions. For more information on SBIR/STTR visit www.sbir.gov

To learn more about the current SBIR/STTR programs in Kentucky visit http://www.kyinnovation.com

Kyndle would like to thank The Gleaner and Union County First for the use of images throughout this site.