Simply hearing the words “government grants” often puts a smile on entrepreneurs’ faces and gets their hearts racing. After all, who doesn’t love free money? As noted by the Small Business Association, however, most grants simply aren’t intended for businesses.
There are exceptions, of course. Limited grants are available in fields that are tied to specific government agencies, such as the Department of Energy or the Department of Agriculture. For example, if your business is involved in research and development, you might qualify for small business grants that are overseen by the SBA.
Given the dearth of government grants for small businesses, recent news from the Department of Energy is certainly noteworthy. Secretary of Energy Rick “Oops” Perry announced that the DOE will award 179 grants to 149 businesses in 36 states. In the world of government grants, this is the equivalent of Oprah screaming “Everybody gets a car!”
The grants total about $30 million and are funded through the department’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. They’re intended to allow small businesses to research and test the feasibility of innovations that advance the mission of the Office of Science. In Phase 1, which lasts 6-12 months, the median grant is worth $150,000.
Businesses that are successful in the initial phase can apply for Phase II, when the median award amount jumps all the way up to $1 million. This second phase will last up to two years, as businesses develop prototypes and processes to validate their research.
If you’re curious what kind of business initiatives qualified for these grants, examples include things like Photonic-Storage Subsystem Input/Output Interface, New Approaches to Extract Graphene Quantum Dots from Coals, High Efficiency RF Power Sources for Accelerator Applications, and Methods for Atom Probe Tomography of Biological Materials.
While your business may not be involved in ultra-technical pursuits like graphene quantum dot extraction or atom probe tomography, that doesn’t mean you should give up all hope on government grants. Take the time to study the grant resources from the Small Business Association to see if your business might qualify for one of the available options.