BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – Alabama’s entrepreneurial community received a $91,000 boost Thursday when the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama Foundation was one of 22 entities nationwide tapped to receive federal grant funding.
The Birmimgham-based foundation, which created the Alabama Launchpad Start-up Competition, will use the U.S. Small Business Administration dollars to help Alabama entrepreneurs statewide gain federal funding to turn their innovative ideas into commercial products. The pre-seed funding competition has distributed more than $1.3 million to more than 30 companies since its founding in 2006.
In all, the SBA selected 22 state and local economic development agencies, business development centers, colleges and universities to receive Federal and State Technology, or FAST, partnership program grants totaling $2 million. The FAST Program is designed to stimulate economic development among small, high-technology businesses through federally-funded innovation and research development programs such as the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.
Ahead of the curve
Earlier this year, Alabama Launchpad rolled out the Alabama SBIR/STTR Assistance Program in March to increase the number of Alabama companies that receive a share of $2 billion in SBIR/STTR grants awarded annually by federal agencies.
EDPA Vice President Angela Wier said the FAST funding will be used to bolster the program which provides training workshops and grant-writing assistance to high-risk early-stage projects during a time when it is much too early for angel investment.
It also bridges a gap between traditional grant funding for research and equity investment from a business or investment fund, she said, and more than 300 people have taken advantage of Alabama SBIR/STTR Assistance Program training to date.
“This validation of need made it an easy decision to submit a proposal for the highly competitive SBA FAST grant funding,” Wier said. “With a team of local partners already in place and committed to assist with outreach, we are confident the SBA funds will augment our current efforts to help Alabama companies increase their success rate winning SBIR/STTR funds. Our work will be measured by the success rate of these companies we help.”
Ready and waiting
Specifically, Alabama Launchpad will use the FAST grant funding to:
- Conduct seven additional SBIR training workshops to extend across the state
- Host innovation day meetings and programs on the campuses of Alabama State, Alabama A&M and Tuskegee universities
- Highlight more innovation and commercialization successes at the annual Alabama Launchpad Innovation and Entrepreneurship Conference
- Offer two new types of funds to assist technology-based small businesses pursuing grants
- Expand marketing of the SBIR program through partnerships with the Small Business Development Center, the Women’s Council of North Alabama and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Strengthening ‘America’s competitiveness’
Joanne Randolph, president and chief executive officer of the WBCNA, said the organization is excited to be on the EDPA team in the execution of the Alabama SBIR/STTR Assistance Program.
“The WBCNA has served over 13,000 individuals in North Alabama since our inception and will be able to promote FAST programs to these clients and other stakeholders, as well as provide technical and management assistance to innovative, technology-driven small businesses in our region,” Randolph said.
Meanwhile, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet called the FAST program an important tool of the SBIR/STTR program.
“SBIR and STTR are a win-win,” Sweet said. “Federal agencies are able to meet their (research and development) needs. Small businesses get the support they need to turn innovative new ideas into job-creating new businesses, and these programs strengthen America’s competitiveness and global economic leadership,” Contreras-Sweet said.
June 26, 2014