Most folks know that government research grant funding powers academic research, but did you know that businesses are eligible for research grants too? Grant funding is non-dilutive, meaning the small business does not have to give the funding agency a share of the business, as it would venture capitalists. While most entrepreneurs are aware of their eligibility for SBIR/STTR funding, many are unaware they qualify for many other agency-funded opportunities as well.
Grant funding has been the coin of the realm in academic research for decades, and most of the funding in the mechanisms traditionally associated with academic research, e.g., the NIH R01, still flows into these institutions. In return for this funding, researchers are required to submit reports on their progress and spending and are expected (or required) to share their final outcomes with their peers and the public as appropriate.
What many small businesses don’t know is that they, too, are often eligible for these funding mechanisms. Today I reviewed the posted grant and cooperative agreement opportunities offered by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that support a lot of research—Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This is not a scientific survey, just a snapshot in time, but it is worth noting that, of the 1,474 total opportunities available, small businesses were eligible for 1,118 (76%) and businesses that don’t qualify as a small business were eligible for 1,022 (69%)! Perhaps most surprising was that in this sample businesses were eligible for more funding opportunities than academic research institutions, and these opportunities ranged from research grants to center grants and cooperative agreements (and, of course, SBIR/STTR funding opportunities).
The upshot here is, if you are a business owner in need of some R&D funding and you haven’t considered the many non-dilutive funding opportunities available to you from government agencies, you should. If you are a global entrepreneur, there are great non-dilutive funding opportunities available to you outside of the US as well.
Updated: 27 June 2019