The Corridor and America’s Seed Fund Week: Catalyzing Resources for Florida Startups

May 15 | news

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will host America’s Seed Fund Week May 15-18, providing opportunities for small business startups to learn about the country’s largest source of early-stage funding. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs highlight America’s Seed Fund and provide over $4 billion each year in funds. The week will feature virtual events connecting tech-focused startups and the organizations that support them to information regarding non-dilutive funding that can be used to support research, development and commercialization. Throughout the week, participants will learn actionable steps on where to begin a proposal, get an understanding of the process and engage with federal decision-makers.

The Florida High Tech Corridor is no stranger to SBIR/STTR funding and has been a leading resource for Florida companies interested in pursuing funds as well as for support organizations looking to learn how they can better help their affiliated businesses. Since 2017, Corridor companies have received more than $350 million in SBIR/STTR funding from all 11 federal agencies. In that time The Corridor has directly supported 51 of these projects through its Matching Grants Research Program (MGRP) by investing more than $4.7 million to support further company engagement with faculty and student researchers at our partner institutions. The Cenfluence initiative led by The Corridor provides active support for member companies pursuing SBIR/STTR grants and published a guide to understanding the program during the 2022 Seed Fund Week. The Corridor has also partnered with the SBA to develop resources for companies looking for SBIR/STTR funding, including the Florida Federal and State Technology Partnership Program (FL FAST) and SBIR Catalyst.

As America’s Seed Fund Week gets underway, it is important to understand how and why you should get involved in the virtual event, what you can learn by participating and how local resources can help you after the four-day celebration comes to an end.

Getting Involved: It is free to register for America’s Seed Fund Week here. Sessions will run from Monday, May 15 through Thursday, May 18, with a full schedule on the registration page. The event is open to entrepreneurs looking for funding in STEM research and development, economic support organizations, venture capitalists and investors, corporate partners looking to connect with small businesses and representatives from government agencies.

The Corridor will be hosting a community event for America’s Seed Fund Week on Thursday, May 18, and will showcase companies located in the Corridor that have successfully used SBIR/STTR funding to advance their research and commercialization efforts. Anyone can register for that here.

What You Can Learn: While SBIR/STTR awards are extremely beneficial for companies in the early stages of development, the process of identifying funding topics and submitting a proposal can be confusing and difficult. “The SBA realizes that the SBIR/STTR process can be difficult, especially for first-time applicants, and is implementing resources and programs to help reduce that barrier,” said Jack Henkel, a senior cluster manager for The Corridor’s Cenfluence clustering initiative and Program Manager of FL FAST. “Seed Fund Week is another way to get a broader audience of both entrepreneurs and ecosystems better connected to and understanding of the SBIR/STTR process.”

America’s Seed Fund Week will feature events that cover a range of topics. The opening sessions of the event maintain a broader focus and provide high-level overviews and introductions to SBIR/STTR concepts. The first day will also feature the new Startup Expo and will showcase startups with technologies that were developed through America’s Seed Fund. Later in the week, participants will hear from individual Program Managers and learn about the specific needs of the 11 agencies that offer SBIR/STTR funding. These “Open Houses” will provide direct access to decision-makers. Henkel adds, “Understanding the difference between agencies is a vital element of SBIR/STTR funding that companies can struggle to understand at first. Participating in these agency-specific sessions could substantially help a company narrow down which agency may be the best fit for them.”

Connecting with The Corridor: The Florida High Tech Corridor has long been committed to catalyzing high-tech innovation in the Central Florida community. That commitment is what has led us to develop resources for Florida companies to earn funding through SBIR/STTR. We understand that getting part of the $4 billion in funding available through America’s Seed Fund can be transformational for the companies we serve and can therefore impact the entire region. America’s Seed Fund Week also encourages boundary-breaking collaboration, another tenet of The Corridor’s mission. We have brought together companies, their support systems and academia from throughout the state with FL FAST, and we now can expand those collaborations on a nationwide scale. Learn more about the FL FAST initiative, including a full schedule of events on our website. Finally, SBIR/STTR funds have a direct impact on women and minority-owned businesses. You can read more about this in our blog from last year’s America’s Seed Fund Week which highlights how women entrepreneurs in the Corridor have capitalized on SBIR/STTR funding. As we routinely promote and partner with under-represented entrepreneurs, providing access to these non-dilutive funding opportunities will only help increase representation.

As America’s Seed Fund Week comes to a close on May 18, it is also vital to note that Florida companies will continue to have a resource in The Corridor. Businesses are encouraged to take what they have learned during the event and connect with our FL FAST program. The events are open to anyone in the region with an interest in learning more about how to leverage SBIR/STTR funding.