Road tour event offers rare opportunity for entrepreneurs

For the first time in a decade, researchers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs have the chance to attend a road tour event right in Arkansas where they can learn how to access some of the billions of dollars in federal funding that’s annually available to small businesses.

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center will host the event from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 19 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Donald W. Reynolds Center for Business and Economic Development.

The 15-state SBIR Road Tour will promote the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) federal programs that provide $2.5 billion every year to small companies for the development of new technologies into commercial-ready products that address critical market needs. The tour last stopped in Arkansas in 2002.

It’s geared toward people who have an idea for technology innovation or research that could be commercialized and are seeking funding through SBIR/STTR federal programs.

Those encouraged to attend include university researchers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs who have a research idea or an innovation that could be developed for commercialization, said Janet Roderick, state director of the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center.

SBIR program managers from at least nine federal agencies will speak and meet one-on-one with entrepreneurs – a rare chance for entrepreneurs to engage program managers face-to-face.

“It provides an opportunity for researchers and small business innovators to meet directly with the program managers from the federal agencies, so Arkansas folks can meet and ask questions about their research and innovations and see if there is a fit for them to apply and receive the SBIR/STTR grants that are given out,” Roderick said.

Agencies scheduled to participate include the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and military branches.

Rebecca Norman, innovation consultant and SBIR specialist at the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, said meeting the program managers in person gives Arkansas entrepreneurs an edge in the highly competitive award process.

“Program managers can recommend how to modify a research concept to better align with a specific SBIR/STTR topic area or recognize if another agency may offer a better fit for your technology,” Norman said. “When your research is relevant to more than one agency, the best way to find out which agency to target first is to meet with the agency reps in person at the SBIR Road Tour event.”

Participants can also learn about state funding opportunities and resource providers during the afternoon session. Norman will speak, and a panel will feature three Arkansas companies who have received SBIR grants, including UALR spin-out Synanomet LLC.

Representatives from state agencies will provide details about state-level funding available for innovative companies. The final panel will highlight work being done at university technology transfer programs – University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences BioVentures and UALR’s Tech Launch.

Registration is required and available online. The cost is $50, but UALR faculty and staff members who register for the event can attend for free. For more information and to register, visit asbtdc.org/sbir-road-tour or contact the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at 501.683.7700.

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center is a university-based economic program that assists entrepreneurs. It has seven university campus locations throughout the state, including its main site at UALR.

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