Florida High Tech Corridor Wins Federal Grant to Help Underserved Small Businesses Secure Research and Innovation Funding

October 03 | news

With a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program, the Florida High Tech Corridor (The Corridor) is establishing Florida’s first centralized support system for companies pursuing Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) awards.

The Corridor’s “FL FAST” initiative will serve small businesses statewide with an emphasis on women-owned, rural-based, and socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses pursuing research and innovation activities in The Corridor’s 23-county region and beyond. Services will include in-person and virtual workshops and one-on-one assistance to meet business needs in key areas, such as topical award identification, budget preparation, proposal review, support letters, and research partnerships.

FL FAST will also serve as an important resource for entrepreneurial support organizations through monthly virtual meetings to publicize resources, events, solicitations, legislative actions, and other information relevant to driving SBIR/STTR outcomes. The FL FAST network includes more than 40 organizations and is expected to grow. (See below for a full list.)

The FAST Partnership Program grant totals $125,000 for one year with the option to renew annually for up to five years. The Corridor is providing an equal cash match of $125,000 to cover costs for additional personnel and resources needed for program delivery.

When adjusted for state populations, Florida ranks in the bottom third (No. 34) in both the number and total dollar amount of SBIR/STTR proposals awarded annually. This presents a significant opportunity for small businesses commercializing new products to leverage nearly $4 billion in early-stage research and development funding available in federally funded SBIR/STTR programs.

“We’re proud to bring the FAST Partnership Program to Florida for the first time. This initiative is an opportunity for our partners in higher education, entrepreneurship, and economic development to combine individual efforts for greater, collective impact,” said Paul Sohl, CEO of The Corridor. “FL FAST will undoubtedly accelerate the success of our other collaborations, such as our Cenfluence initiative with Orange County and Osceola County’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge, while ensuring diverse communities are represented in the region’s growing innovation economy.”

Already, The Corridor team and its partners have impacted SBIR/STTR outcomes as one of eight winners of the inaugural SBIR Catalyst prize to help more women-owned companies secure funds for research and innovation activities. FL FAST will apply lessons learned from tailored outreach, role modeling, and the SBIR Catalyst mentor network to help more underestimated entrepreneurs secure funding.

The Corridor’s Matching Grants Research Program (MGRP) will also drive FL FAST success. With $4 million available to invest annually, the MGRP galvanizes applied research partnerships between high-tech companies and two of The Corridor’s partner universities: the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida. Recipients of SBIR/STTR awards may be eligible for a match of up to $150,000 from The Corridor to support their university research partnership.

Visit The Corridor’s website to learn more, request SBIR support or join the FL FAST network: https://floridahightech.com/innovation-investments/sbir-support/.


Known as America’s Seed Fund, SBIR/STTR programs are the nation’s largest source of early-stage startup funding for research and development with $4 billion budgeted annually to support the financing of cutting-edge, high-risk technologies. More than 7,000 awards are distributed annually by 11 participating federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and NASA. Companies supported by the SBIR/STTR programs often generate some of the most important breakthroughs each year in the U.S. Additional information about the programs, as well as past and current topics can be found at www.sbir.gov.

About the Florida High Tech Corridor

The Florida High Tech Corridor (The Corridor) is a regional economic development initiative of three top-tier research universities: the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, and the University of Florida. Since 1996, The Corridor has cultivated Florida’s research and innovation economy through matching grants to support university-industry partnerships, federal grant support, industry clustering, STEM outreach, and more. Powered by an ethos of collaboration, The Corridor aligns opportunities and resources in academia, industry, and economic development to unleash the region’s exponential potential. Learn more about The Corridor at www.floridahightech.com. Connect with The Corridor on LinkedIn and subscribe to the Tech’s Potential podcast on Spotify or Apple.

FL FAST Network Partner Quotes:

“FL FAST is a breakthrough opportunity for Florida entrepreneurs who struggle with funding as a major hurdle to early-stage growth,” said Mary Beth Kerly, business associate professor at the InLab@HCC. “This is especially true for military veterans in our STRIVE and entrepreneurship degree programs, who must already overcome the challenging transition into civilian life. Having a free resource like FL FAST to guide them through the SBIR/STTR process is priceless.”

“Women-owned small businesses have grown at a breakneck pace over the last two decades, yet women are not securing SBIR/STTR funding at the same rate as their male counterparts,” said Kathryn Rudloff, executive director, weVenture at the Florida Institute of Technology. “We are excited to build upon the progress achieved as a partner in The Corridor’s SBIR Catalyst initiative to ensure more women receive critical seed funding for their innovative business ideas.”

“SBIR/STTR awards create opportunities for our incubator clients to build a strong foundation for success by funding proof-of-concept research and catalyzing partnerships with faculty subject-matter experts,” said Shannon Pastizzo, program director, of USF CONNECT. “As more entrepreneurs learn and master the SBIR/STTR application process with the help of FL FAST, we will surely see an increase of startup success stories at the University of South Florida and across the state.”

“The SBIR and STTR programs are one of the most successful federal small business programs supporting collaborative research and development between small businesses and our federal agencies that need solutions. They also play a critical role in supporting small business partnerships with our world-class universities,” said Carol Ann Dykes Logue, director of programs and operations, at UCF Business Incubation Program. “Many of our UCF Business Incubator program clients have been successful with the programs, but so many small businesses don’t even know about them or how to engage in them. The SBA FAST award, coupled with the Corridor’s strong ability to build collaborations, will provide a well-connected network of resources to help many more of them get the resources they need to grow.”