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Entrepreneurs Learn How to Seek SBIR Grant Money at Conference on Campus

2015 SBIR Conference

More than 200 entrepreneurs, business professionals, government leaders and others convened at Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus in January to learn how to apply for federal funding for their innovative research projects.

The goal of the inaugural Maryland SBIR Conference was to teach researchers and entrepreneurs how to get seed funding from the federal government through the SBIR program. SBIR – Small Business Innovation Research – is a competitive grant program that encourages small businesses to participate in federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization.

“Maryland is on the cutting edge of a new business model where the federal government is meeting some of the R&D needs by investing in private-sector innovation and incentivizing the growth of new businesses,” said U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, one of the speakers at the event. “Maryland small businesses are gaining opportunities because we have an abundance of entrepreneurs with solid ideas, and the labor force to do the work.” Cardin serves as the Ranking Member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Since 1982, the SBIR program has generated more than 84,000 patents and millions of jobs, according to Cardin.

The conference featured program managers from several federal agencies that offer SBIR grants, including the National Science Foundation; Department of Energy; Department of Defense; National Institutes of Health; and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The event was sponsored by Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus, Maryland Technology Development Corporation, BioHealth Innovation, the SBIR Resource Center and the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development.

The conference was organized to “get more SBIR and federal procurement dollars into Montgomery County and the State of Maryland,” said Jerry Godwin, business incubator manager with the county’s Department of Economic Development. “Maryland ranks about 30th in the nation in SBIR win rates. We should be at least in the top 10.”

SBIR focuses on entrepreneurs “because that is where most innovation and innovators thrive,” according to SBIR’s website.

However, small businesses often have a hard time financing research and development, so the federal government sets aside funds to help these small companies. Companies go through a competitive, thorough application process. To apply, companies must have fewer than 500 employees and meet other eligibility criteria.

“The risk and expense of conducting serious R&D efforts are often beyond the means of many small businesses,” Cardin said. “By reserving a specific percentage of federal R&D funds for small businesses, SBIR protects the small business and enables it to compete on the same level as larger businesses.”