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The Feds Have $2.5B Available to Fund Innovative Small Companies The Small Business Administration is crisscrossing the nation to educate entrepreneurs about how to apply for grants focused on early stage companies.

By Kedma Ough Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The SBIR Road Tour is currently traveling across eighteen states with a goal of educating innovators on the $2.5 billion available from 11 federal agencies for early stage innovation support. The Road Tour is sponsored by the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) division of the Small Business Administration (SBA), which is focused on fostering small business innovations through alignment with federal agency priorities.

Individuals with an innovative ideas don't have to wait until the road tour comes to their state to start learning more about funding options. The SBIR Gateway provides excellent content to get educated, so you can spend more time researching and developing your idea and less time trying to find the right funding source.

Related: When Seeking an SBA Loan, Remember the 5 C's

The SBIR program, established in 1982, provides grants and contracts to small businesses (defined as 500 employees or fewer) for development of a new concept. Successful Phase I proposals can receive up to $150,000 to establish the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of a proposed concept. Based on the outcomes from a successful Phase 1 implementation, successful Phase 2 solutions can receive up to $1,000,000 over a two-year period for the further elaboration and discovery of the scientific/technical merits of the solution, as well as it's commercial potential.

Here are five critical tools to consider in jump starting your opportunity to win an SBIR Phase I award.

1. Sign up for the FREE SBIR Insider Newsletter. The SBIR Insider newsletter provides critical updates on changes and updates to the SBIR program. This may include new proposed legislative changes, upcoming conferences, changes to specific agency programs or a call to action.

2. Review the SBIR/STTR Solicitation Dates. This page allows you to review solution requests ("solicitations") for programs in the participating agencies. Each solicitation will identify critical dates, including proposals deadlines and request closing. It's important to sort through the current solicitations for each program and identify topics that may fit your knowledge and expertise. Keep in mind that with each solicitation there is a window of opportunity to speak directly with the topic author regarding any questions. This is a unique opportunity to solidify details for a potential proposal submission.

Related: Where to Look for Grant Money for Your Business

3. Check out the SBIR Agency Links. With eleven federal agencies participating in the program it is critical to learn and understand each agency's mission, the various programs and initiatives they support, and the amount of funds they allocate to different project phases.

4. Sign up for an event through the SBIR events calendar. There are multiple ongoing webinars and training options for the various topics supported by the SBIR/STTR program. Many of them are offered for free to support education and awareness of the program. In addition, first time applicants may want to strongly consider attending The National SBIR/STTR conference. The conference is a great opportunity to meet directly with program managers and capture direct feedback on your concept.

5. Click the SBIR funding link to learn more about the program. The SBIR funding link provides further details on the program including its mission, program goals, policy directives and inter-agency annual reports.

If you want to get connected to an SBIR advisor you may want to link up with your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The U.S Small Business Administration (SBA) administers the SBDC Program to provide business assistance to current and prospective small business owners with no cost business counseling and low-cost trainings.

Related: SBA Administrator on Mentoring: 'It's About Championship'

Kedma Ough

Entrepreneur, Inventor, Speaker; SBDC Director

Kedma Ough is a proven champion for small businesses. She is an inventor, author, speaker and a fifth-generation entrepreneur. Ough provides honest, straightforward education to innovators on feasibility,  funding and free resources. 

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