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Small Business Administration brings grants tour to Tech

May 7, 2015

 

MICHAEL HOGE
Staff Reporter

 

The U.S. Small Business Administration visited Louisiana Tech as part of their Small Business Innovation Research road tour for innovators and entrepreneurs to learn about financial grants for small businesses.

 

“The goal of our outreach is to get more high-tech and new startup firms that are in the technology area to be more aware of the federal SBIR program,” said John Williams, director of innovation for the SBA’s Office of Investment and Innovation.

 

The goal of SBIR, or Small Business Innovation Research and the Small Business Technology Transfer program, is to educate on the opportunities to receive federal grant money totaling $2.5 billion dollars available for a wide variety of technology fields, he said.

 

Williams said, “There are 11 agencies in the government participating in the program and my role is to make sure they follow the policy of the legislation.”

 

The federal agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of the Navy, use representatives as outreach to underrepresented states, minority owned and women owned companies for increasing the number of new applicants, said Williams.

 

Sreenivasa Sanakam, a fifth year biomedical engineering major, is one potential applicant with his company HelpFlix.

 

“We started a business where we produce 3D animations,” he said.  “We initially started with medical devices to make training manuals for medical equipment.”

 

Sanakam said the next goal is to branch out from the medical field into other areas of interest.

 

“The reason we are here is to gather what kind of training they are currently providing and what funding they are providing so we can make animations for their safety training procedures and technical procedures,” he said.

 

The aim is to target specific agencies requiring unique training procedures, Sanakam said. He specified examples such as safety training for farmers or for different training procedures in the Navy and the large volume of manuals the Navy has for different standards.

 

“The program managers have explained they are connecting me to the right person in that particular field, so it turned out to be very good thing,” Sanakam said.

 

Williams said the SBIR program is great for students and having a company already is not a requirement to apply for the program. If an applicant wins, he said, he or she gets to form a company and keep the intellectual rights to the property.

 

“After the startup competition, I realized the private investor route was probably not the best fit for my type of project, especially in this region since investors really don’t understand this type of product,” said Todd Maggio, associate professor of communication design.

 

His product is LMNOBeasts, a way to help children strengthen reading skills through typography as well as therapy for kids with communicative disorders such as dyslexia.

 

“On the other hand, for educational ventures or products that deal with children’s health, there are plenty of grant opportunities out there and grants don’t have the same expectations that private investors would have,” he said.

 

Maggio said a grant gives the freedom to do needed research without investors constantly demanding results.

 

Email comments to mph027@latech.edu.

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