By Dana Catron
June 13, 2017
The New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership Program recently sent two New Mexico companies to the National Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Conference held May 15-17 in Washington, D.C.
NM FAST is based at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center.
The conference, which was once again co-located with the TechConnect World Innovation Conference & Expo and the National Innovation Summit & Showcase, provided opportunities to connect with representatives from 11 federal agencies. The conference also exposed the New Mexico attendees, who were not planning to attend prior to hearing about NM FAST funding, to the latest innovative technologies and placed the companies in front of representatives and program managers from SBIR/STTR funding agencies, industry leaders and veteran SBIR/STTR awardees.
At the conference, attendees were able to attend panel sessions with topics that ranged from SBIR 101 to how to leverage SBIR funding. All eleven agencies provided special briefings on ongoing and upcoming initiatives, along with tips and best practices to consider when applying to a SBIR/STTR funded by their agency.
“It’s NM FAST’s mission to provide small business owners the opportunity to compete and succeed in securing SBIR/STTR awards,” said Zetdi Sloan, program manager for NM FAST. “This conference provides an incredible resource for enabling direct contact with the business’ funders and customers.”
One of the most helpful facets of the conference, and one that both New Mexico companies were able to take advantage of, were the private one-on-one sessions with program managers from all eleven agencies. Companies were given 15 minutes to speak with a program manager and ask any questions they may have about the SBIR process, how their technology fits within the goals of the agency, etc. Speaking directly to the program manager provides companies with valuable feedback and ensures they are prepared to undertake the SBIR proposal preparation and submission process. This reduces the time, effort, and occasional frustration of trying to contact agency representatives via email or phone.
Michael Smith, founder and CEO of Benetracker, was happy to take advantage of conference funding.
“It’s been great being here at the conference to meet all the different federal agencies,” Smith said. “I had four meetings, three of which were super exciting.”
The conference allowed him to directly dialogue with agency representatives who spoke with him about the future funding priorities and goals of that agency, and he received direct encouragement and support for putting together his SBIR package. In fact, the National Science Foundation invited him to be a panel reviewer in their next round of submissions.
Conference attendee Brian Billstrand, founder of Sandia Nanoinks, LLC, also found the conference productive.
“Once we got the (NM FAST conference) funding, I was able to come to the conference and had a lot of great one-on-one meetings,” said Billstrand. “I made contacts at NSF, the U.S. Army, and have additional meetings with NASA. They’ve agreed to look over our executive summaries and gave me a lot of valuable information on SBIRs, STTRs, and a lot of other things my company has considered.”
Greg Scantlen, CEO of Creative C, attended this year’s conference and also received funding last year from NM FAST.
“I’d like to say thanks to NM FAST for funding me for my first trip here last year and helping me figure out the advantages of coming to this conference,” said Scantlen. “This year I really focused on one-on-one meetings and this morning I’ve met with DOE and Air Force and made some very significant connections. I was an SBIR Phase I awardee and have a Phase II in review, and I was able to meet with decision makers here at the conference, so that’s been extremely valuable.”
Seeing New Mexico businesses succeed at finding potential customers is always a highlight for NM FAST.
“Events like these even the playing field so that small businesses are able to explore more of what’s possible and be competitive on a wider scale,” Sloan said. “Having an opportunity to gain access to a potential customer is as much of a success to New Mexico as it is to the small business.“
The NM FAST team was also able to gain valuable insight from meeting with agency representatives and attending workshops and panels, which will bolster the efficacy of programmatic efforts going forward.
NM FAST hosted a dinner during the conference, bringing together researchers from Sandia National Laboratories and New Mexico small businesses. The dinner was a successful platform for future partnerships and collaboration between the lab and tech projects small businesses are working on.
Both companies applied for NM FAST assistance after attending the conference, and will be preparing SBIR proposals in the upcoming months.
NM FAST offers eligible small businesses assistance with funding efforts through SBIR and STTR programs, which offer more than $2.5 billion annually to support the development of technology by small businesses. The NM FAST program provides free assistance to New Mexico companies applying for a SBIR or STTR grant, and is funded through the Small
Business Administration. For more information, please visit: http://arrowheadcenter.nmsu.edu/nmfast/