By Kurt Roots
These programs provide clues into several high-tech firms in Minnesota specifically pursuing sophisticated algorithms and methods.
The primary source of funding for these firms was supplied by the Department of Defense (DoD) agency through the SBIR ($1b annual funding) and STTR ($100m annual funding) programs. The two programs are national vehicles used by many different government agencies to provide funding to small technology companies involved in early-stage R&D projects.
According to the DoD, they annually allocate up to $1,150,000 in funds for SBIR, which is focused solely used in funding high-risk projects at small tech companies. The STTR program has $850,000 set aside to help fund similar companies working in concert with researchers at universities. In both programs, the Air Force, Army, and Navy are the most influential branches of the DoD agency.
As large national programs, these are clearly competitive funding opportunities if you consider all of the tech firms vying for capital. While it may be cutthroat, both programs are designed to foster innovation by allowing the small company to retain the intellectual property rights of the technology produced. Therefore these products can be applied to multiple sectors, allowing for commercialization while providing strategic advantages for the government.
Each of the Minnesota tech companies identified responded to a specific solicitation by the DoD agency. These technology requests are designed by the agency to fulfill a certain need of the organization and are typically several waves of solicitations offered annually — each providing a three-phase approach. Phase I funding is always granted with the intention of analyzing the project feasibility while latter phases are used to actually develop the product; there is no obligation by firms to move beyond Phase I. Most of the Minnesota firms that we reviewed seemed to follow this model of only utilizing Phase I funding to kickstart their projects.
The table below highlights several software firms in Minnesota receiving SBIR or STTR funding between 2009 and 2010. These were selected based on their funding sources, but also because of the cutting-edge algorithms and methods researched in these funded R&D projects. Companies like Architecture Technology Corporation have plowed these funds R&D investments to produce commercially viable products. Gene Proctor, VP of Business Development at ATC said that these types of projects allow his company to bring advanced R&D capabilities to its headquarters in Eden Prairie.
Curious as to what these companies have produced and the technology behind these innovations? Stay tuned…
|Company||Funding Type||Total Funding Amount||Total Awards 2009-2010|
|Architecture Technology Corporation (ATC)||SBIR||$2,814,196.00||9|
|Smart Information Flow Technologies (SIFT)||SBIR||$997,985.00||4|