The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will provide $1 million in funding to entrepreneurs through a new program aimed at commercializing high-tech innovation. The program, called SBIR Advance, will be administered by the UW-Extension’s Center for Technology Commercialization and will be accessible to young companies throughout the state. Applications opened Aug 1.

Funds from the program are available to recipients of federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grants. The U.S. government created the SBIR/STTR programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation, providing $2 billion of federal research funding each year.

“Wisconsin’s early-stage companies that receive federal SBIR and STTR funds are on a path toward commercialization and the creation of high-wage jobs,” said WEDC Secretary Reed Hall. “SBIR Advance will fill critical funding gaps for activities such as market research and patent development restricted under federal awards that applicants already hold. Unlike programs in some other states, SBIR Advance will provide funding upon completion of key milestones,
including Lean Startup training, which significantly accelerate business development.”

The Extension’s CTC currently helps companies with SBIR/STTR grant funding acquisition and will apply that expertise as they guide companies through SBIR Advance’s business development goals.

“Businesses working through business modeling processes are more likely to be awarded an SBIR grant,” said CTC Interim Director Dave Linz. “In addition, states with matching grant programs have increased success rates for the next phase of federal funding—and that can exceed $1 million.”

As administrator of SBIR Advance funds, CTC can match up to $75,000 of the participant’s federal SBIR/STTR Phase 1 award and up to $250,000 of their Phase 2 award. Online applications for SBIR Advance opened Aug. 1, with critical deadlines following shortly thereafter.

The idea of using state dollars to build on SBIR awards, which go to a select group of heavily vetted tech-based companies, has long been supported by the Wisconsin Technology Council through its biannual policy reports.

“These are companies that make natural targets for state dollars that can accelerate the company-building process,” said Tom Still, president of the Tech Council.

Information relating to the program can be found at
Applicants also can contact Todd Strother, CTC commercialization consultant, at (608) 890-1015.

SBIR Advance is part of a new Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative WEDC is pursuing with the help of the UW System and other business leaders throughout the state to remove barriers to high-tech commercialization. Under the S3 umbrella WEDC and its economic development partners are
implementing financial and operational assistance programs designed specifically to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges.

One such initiative—also a collaborative effort between WEDC and the UW System—is a seed fund called Ideadvance also managed by UW-Extension’s CTC. Selected SBIR Advance participants will join the September Ideadvance cohort in Lean Startup training.