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UGA startups receive GRA and SBIR funding to support their operations

Tuesday, September 15, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Angela King
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 A fact of business is that companies need money to run and grow. In metaphorical terms, cash is the “life-blood” of a company, and needed transfusions come from either the sale of products, loans, grants, investments or a combination of these depending on the development stage of the company. In the earliest stage, startup companies typically require investments and grants to reach the point at which they can sell a product or service and thus begin to survive on their own cash flow. 

Startup companies in the Innovation Gateway startup incubator, which arise from UGA discoveries, are no different: they can require years of grants and investments before they get to the point of having something they can sell. This period is often referred to as the Valley of Death. How do UGA startups survive?

We are fortunate in the state of Georgia to have the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), which was established in 1990 to enable the expansion of technology-based economic development. The GRA Ventures program serves as an essential tool to fund early-stage biotechnology and life sciences discoveries made at Georgia’s research universities through grants for technology validation and startup company acceleration. This program has a variety of grant and loan options that university startups can utilize in their early development stage. A few recent examples of UGA startup companies’ access to the GRA Venture program are:

  • BiotecEra used a Phase I GRA grant to complete proof-of-concept tests needed for a successful $225,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR grant.
  • Phytosynethetix used a Phase I GRA grant to generate research results that were leveraged into $95,000 NSF SBIR funding.
  • New UGA Innovation Gateway startup Proventus Bio has been awarded GRA Phase I funding, which, along with a grant from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will help them to develop materials for making cheaper vaccines.
  • GlycoScientific received a $25,000 GRA Phase I grant that contributed to a successful NIH SBIR award for $149,951 and an STTR award for $624,244.
  • Incubator resident PhotoChem was able to turn a $11,000 Phase I GRA grant into a successful SBIR award for $685,977.

GRA Venture grants and loans are not sufficient on their own but have become essential in leveraging additional federal funding for company product development activities. The federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program is available to increase the commercialization of federally funded research and product development among small businesses. The milestone-driven award process provides grants for proof-of-concept, feasibility studies, R&D activities, and scaling up. Many of our UGA startup companies have taken advantage of SBIR and its sister program, Small Technology Transfer Research (STTR), to conduct critical research and development work without bringing on private investment partners, after using GRA Venture funds to lay the ground work for their product development activities.
The funding Valley of Death is difficult for startup companies to cross but having access to business advice, mentoring and funding resources through the Innovation Gateway Incubator may just be what the doctor ordered.

Source: UGA: Innovation Gateway.

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