NYSTAR’s Innovation Matching Grants Help Fill Gaps in Federal Small-Business Funding

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Newly launched program gives boost to companies receiving SBIR and STTR awards

 Small businesses across New York State are unlocking millions of dollars from federal grants to advance technology and innovation, addressing needs from clean energy to forensic science.

And now Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR) is providing an extra lift — and helping to fill gaps in funding — with its new Innovation Matching Grants Program.

Grants through the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs focus on technology development, from early stage (Phase I) to partner-driven prototypes (Phase II). Competition is fierce: In 2022, there were more than 1,400 applications for the SBIR/STTR grants alone from New York companies; 307 of those proposals were granted awards.

But as with most U.S. grants, there are guidelines that spell out specific ways in which awardees can — and can’t — utilize the funds.

That’s where NYSTAR’s $6 million Innovation Matching Grants program, launched in May 2024, comes into play. The state-administered funds will support work crucial to commercialization but not covered under the federal grant, including marketing and legal services.

NYSTAR’s competitive program will award SBIR- or STTR-funded projects up to $100,000 (Phase I) or $200,000 (Phase II). Due to pent-up demand, the state has already closed its first round of applications and plans to open a second round in early summer 2024.

“The SBIR and STTR grants are awarded very specifically for advancing technology. That leaves a big gap as companies are trying to commercialize their products,” said Ben Verschueren, executive director of NYSTAR. “They need to get the word out as they take innovations to market. They need help with patenting and legal services. For a lot of these small businesses, that’s a not a trivial investment, but can be a critical one towards their ultimate success. We’re trying to see what the federal government isn’t paying for that we can augment, which will increase the chances of success.”

While helping companies succeed in bringing their innovations to market, the Innovation Matching Grants program also gives NYSTAR a more complete picture of the depth and breadth of work being done throughout the state. Verschueren said this will help NYSTAR assess the needs of researchers and entrepreneurs going forward.

“There is this massive amount of great research we’re doing, and we have a ton of NYSTAR-supported centers, but we don’t necessarily have that direct tie into some of these companies to understand what they’re doing and what they need,” Verschueren said. “This is one piece that helps us get a fuller picture of the pockets of technology and small businesses that are growing across the state.”

There’s also massive interest in the matching grants program. NYSTAR received applications from eight of 10 economic development regions within less than a week of opening Round 1. Projects spanned 18 strategic technology areas — everything from artificial intelligence to advanced manufacturing to climate tech.

Several NYSTAR assets are already providing direct support to SBIR and STTR awardees.

TYFAST Energy Corp, which has worked with the Koffman Southern Tier incubator, received an SBIR Phase II award as the company works to scale its new class of high-performance lithium-ion batteries to decarbonize diesel-powered vehicles in construction and heavy-duty industries.

In the Capital Region, SupreMEtric LLC is developing a novel technology to aid in crime scene investigations and forensic testing backlogs. Working with Innovate 518, the company secured an STTR grant to develop a prototype for integration into crime lab settings, with plans to create portable instruments for on-site use.

As NYSTAR opens its matching grant program, companies like these will be set up even further for success in New York.

“The types of things we’re weighing when reviewing innovation matching grants is to see if the technologies have path to commercialization and the potential for jobs and the economic impact for New York State,” Verschueren said. “And quite frankly, in the long run, this increases the attractiveness of the state for innovative businesses, and it increases New York’s stickiness. We want companies to stay here and feel supported here.”

Small businesses are encouraged to visit NYSTAR’s website for more information on the Innovation Matching Grants program.

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