Wasilla, Alaska, entrepreneur Marlene Cameron found out just how supportive state tech funds can be when she applied for and was awarded an $85,000 industry research grant in 1991 from the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation (ASTF). She needed the money to help expand the state's birch syrup industry. In 1995, she was awarded an additional $8,500.
"The [first] proposal was to help get [the birch syrup industry] off the ground," says Cameron, whose firm manufactures a line of birch syrup products that includes candy, sauces, and flavored syrups.
Although Cameron Birch Syrups and Confections is not a high-tech company, it received the ASTF grant to help bring birch syrup equipment to the state, says Cameron. She also used some of the money to start an association for syrup makers.
ASTF provides seed grants of $50,000 to $200,000 to help develop a concept or prototype, or begin commercialization of a technologically innovative product. In Cameron's case, ASTF was also trying to stimulate growth of an entire industry in Alaska.
If commercialization of a product is successful, the company repays 5 percent of gross revenues up to 1.5 times the amount of the grant. If the project does not fly, the investment need not be repaid.
Alaska Science and Technology Foundation, (907) 272-4333, http://www.astf.org
Cameron Syrup and Confections, 1265 Seward Meridian Rd., Wasilla, AK 99654, (800) 962-4724
State Science and Technology Institute, (614) 421-SSTI, http://www.ssti.org