The federal government offers several programs that connect entrepreneurs to technology developed in government labs:
The Ben Franklin Technology Center of Southeastern Pennsylvania helps small and midsized companies tap into the resources of Uncle Sam's research labs through the Federal Technology Access Program (FedTAP).
FedTAP is a free program designed for companies seeking short-term help (five to 10 days) with a problem (i.e., trying to develop a new medical device but not having an in-house engineering staff) or for entrepreneurs seeking new technology to improve a current product.
The Ben Franklin Center facilitates face-to-face meetings or videoconferences between entrepreneurs and lab personnel, and helps with licensing agreements and other documentation requirements. For details, call (215) 382-0370.
NASA's technology transfer program, the Commercial Technology Network, consists of 10 field centers (federal labs). At five of the centers, NASA has partnered with community organizations to establish technology incubators for small-business owners. There are also six regional technology transfer centers and one national center geared toward helping small businesses access NASA's technology. Visit NASA's Web page at http://nctn.hq.nasa.gov/nctn/ and check out TechTracs (under Technology Resources), which lists all technology sponsored or produced by NASA. For more information, call (800) 678-6882.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)offers several ways entrepreneurs can take advantage of federal technology. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) helps small and midsized manufacturing businesses with technology problems by offering the services of internal experts, contracted consultants or federal laboratory personnel. MEP delivers its services in part through a network of centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico; call (800) MEP-4MFG.
NIST's Advanced Technology Program allows small businesses to compete for financial support to develop commercial applications for their own or federal technology. Call (800) ATP-FUND.
NIST's Laboratory Research and Services program allows small businesses to attend seminars, exchange correspondence with federal researchers and conduct on-site consultations to find solutions to their technology problems.
The Department of Agriculture helps small businesses access its technology through the Agricultural Research Service Office of Technology Transfer. Five geographically dispersed technology coordinators facilitate the appropriate research or transfer agreement. Visit the USDA's Web site at (http://ott.arsusda.gov/home.html), or call (202) 720-3973.
Unemployed Encouraged To Start Businesses
People on unemployment who want to try their hand at entrepreneurship may be able to take advantage of a program that allows them to use their unemployment income to start a business.
California, Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Oregon have implemented the Self-Employment Assistance Program, which waives the requirement that individuals actively look for employment; instead, the person must be working full time on starting a business.
The program is open only to people who are likely to exhaust their benefits and are likely to have difficulty obtaining future employment. Those accepted are required to obtain entrepreneurial training, business counseling and technical assistance. To find out if you qualify, contact your local unemployment office.
The Self-Employment Assistance Program is scheduled to end nationwide in December 1998, but the federal government may extend the provision.
Web Site Offers Business Grants
Companies in business for five years or less are eligible to win one of two monthly $5,000 business grants. Sponsored by the small-business Web site Biztalk, the Biztalk Seed Fund ConBODY is scheduled to run through the summer and possibly longer.
Businesses of any kind can enter the conBODY as long as they meet three criteria: they are a viable business, have a strong likelihood of success, and use or plan to use the Internet in their overall business strategy.
Start-ups must submit a business plan and existing firms must send a marketing plan by 11:59 p.m. on the first day of the month prior to the one for which you wish to be considered. Winners are posted on the Biztalk Web site by the 5th of the month.
For rules and conBODY requirements, visit the site at (http://www.biztalk.com) or call (352) 378-9939.
Biztalk Seed Fund ConBODY, 116 N.W. 13th St., #183, Gainesville, FL 32601, (352) 378-9939
Inland Empire Small Business Development Center, 1157 Spruce St., Riverside, CA 92507, (909) 781-2345
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Technology Transfer, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Bldg. 005, Beltsville, MD 20705