Since, 1995, MicroStrain, Inc. has received more than $1.5 million from six National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards. With those awards, the company has perfected the wireless capability of their sensors, critical not just for safely moving the Liberty Bell, but also countless applications in medicine and manufacturing.
NSF SBIR awards nurture businesses that are developing innovative products or methods - specifically with applications for science, engineering and education. NSF also supports a sister program called Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), which requires collaboration between the business and researchers at universities and similar institutions.
The NSF contribution is substantial—$100 million in more than 300 grants in fiscal year 2002 alone—and successes have ranged from robotic toys that help children with disabilities to truck-sized scanners that find contraband in shipping cargo.
As mandated by the U.S. Congress, NSF supports small businesses with both finances and business training, with an emphasis on cutting-edge, high-risk, high-quality scientific, engineering, and education research. NSF’s SBIR program targets businesses that address important, immediate problems and create solutions that are highly marketable.
The grants are awarded in several phases, with early awards helping the businesses flesh out their ideas and prove their concepts, and later awards guiding the businesses as they move closer to bringing their product to market and achieving financial independence.
NSF is not the only U.S. agency granting SBIR/STTR awards, but it was the first to do so, initiating the program in 1977. In 1982, Congress extended the program to nine other agencies. SBIR/STTR programs are ultimately guided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the SBA Policy Directive.
** Photo Credits:
-- Advanced Research and Applications Corporation (ARACOR); National Science Foundation
-- AnthroTronix, Inc.; National Science Foundation