EPA Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Upcoming Events at EPA

By Michaela Burns

School’s out but EPA webinars are still in session! Check out a few of the upcoming open meetings and webinars we are hosting so that you can spend your summer with science.

Small Business Innovation Research Informational Webinar
Tuesday, June 14th at 2:00 p.m. ET
sbir logo
Interested in how small businesses can get involved in environmental research and the development of innovative technologies? Check out the informational webinar on EPA’s 2015-2017 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I solicitation.  Attend to learn more about EPA’s SBIR program, this year’s solicitation topics, and how you can apply for an SBIR contract.  EPA SBIR program experts will be available to answer questions during a question & answer session following the presentation. Don’t wait to register!


Small Systems Webinar: Disinfection Byproducts Regulatory Issues and Solutions
Tuesday, June 14th at 3:30 p.m. ET
*This webinar was originally scheduled for April 26th

faucet with water coming outGastrointestinal illnesses with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, cramps can be caused by pathogens and viruses that are often found in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. This water must therefore be treated with disinfectant in order to be safe to drink. However, some disinfectants react with naturally-occurring materials in the water to form byproducts that are associated with health risks.

EPA environmental engineer Michael Finn will review the Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule, a series of regulations aimed at limiting public exposure to these disinfectant byproducts. Jolyn Leslie, a regional engineer for the Washington State Department of Health Office of Drinking Water, will discuss the challenges for small systems dealing with disinfectant byproducts in Washington State and the possible solutions.

Bonus—attendees may have the option of receiving a certificate for participating in this webinar. Register now!


copy of reportScience Advisory Board Meeting for EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Study
Tuesday, June 14th—Wednesday, June 15th       

EPA’s chartered Scientific Advisory Board is hosting a meeting today and tomorrow to discuss the Science Advisory Board’s Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel’s draft peer review report of EPA’s Hydraulic Fracturing Drinking Water Assessment.

The discussion will be webcasted. Here is the call-in information.

Non-Targeted Chemical Exposure Screening
Thursday, June 23rd at 11 a.m. ET 

This month’s Computational Toxicology Communities of Practice Meeting webinar is focusing on non-targeted chemical exposure screening. Most exposure sampling techniques are designed to test for a specific chemical that is suspected to be present. EPA researchers are developing “Non-Targeted Screening” methods to test indoor environmental samples for all chemicals present in the home. Contact Monica Linnenbrink (linnenbrink.monica@epa.gov) to register and learn more.


Revised Total Coliform Rule for Small Systems
Tuesday, June 28th at 2:00 p.m. ET

Attend this Small Systems webinar to learn about the Revised Total Coliform Rule (RTCR). Mark Verbsky of Ohio EPA will provide a brief glimpse into Ohio EPA’s experience with implementing the rule in Ohio. Cindy Mack of EPA Office of Water will discuss the federal RTCR requirements applicable to small systems serving 1,000 or fewer persons. She will also address sampling requirements and events that trigger a level 1 or level 2 assessment along with the actions public water systems should take. Register now for the webinar.


Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Source and Treated Drinking Water
Wednesday, June 29th at 2:00 p.m. ET

drinking water graphicTune into this month’s water research webinar to hear about contaminants of emerging concern, a term which encompasses a vast array of chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, perfluoroalkyl substances, and surfactants, as well as microorganisms such as Mycobacteria and Legionella.

Scientists from EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have collaborated on a study examining the occurrence of contaminants of emerging concern in source water and treated drinking water. Dr. Susan Glassmeyer, lead researcher on the project, will discuss the chemical and microbial contaminants measured in the study, and examine the implications for aquatic life and human health. Register now to stay informed.


Air Quality Monitoring and Community Scienceair sensor toolbox graphic
Wednesday, June 29th at 3:00 p.m. ET

Want to know which low-cost air sensors can best serve your community? Look out for this month’s EPA Tools and Resources Webinar discussing EPA’s online Air Sensor Toolbox. This tool provides a one-stop place for information and guidance on how to evaluate the performance of air sensors available in the marketplace, what to consider before conducting an air monitoring project, and what others are doing to monitor air quality.

Register to hear EPA’s Ron Williams present research that is advancing the development and evaluation of air sensor technology and helping communities learn more about their air quality.


Integrated Risk Information System Public Science Meeting
Wednesday, June 29th—Thursday, June 30th

The Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program is hosting an event to get input from the scientific community and the public on the draft assessments of tert-Butyl Alcohol (tert-Butanol) and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP), two substances that pose a risk to human health. Register by June 20th to attend the IRIS public science meeting at the EPA Conference Center in Arlington, Virginia. Register by June 24th to attend via webinar.


For more events, head on over to the EPA research event page.

About the Author: Michaela Burns is an Oak Ridge Associated Universities contractor and writer for the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Materials Science 101: Molding Mushrooms

By Dustin Renwick

Compostable packing for shipping wineYour new TV or fancy bottle of wine came in a cardboard box that can be recycled, but thanks to a small, eco-friendly business, those white packing pieces that cushion and protect consumer goods inside boxes could go a step further in the product life cycle.

Ecovative, located in New York, wants you to throw the packaging in your compost pile.

Typically, those pieces are made of polystyrene foam, which hangs around in landfills for hundreds of years after it’s been discarded. Ecovative can replace that foam with another white material: mycelium.

Fungi absorb nutrients with their mycelia. Think of them as the roots of a mushroom.

In a five-day process, Ecovative can grow mycelia into all-natural packaging. Better yet, mycelia don’t need water or light to curl and coil into a dense, customizable form that packs eight miles of fibers into each cubic inch of material.

The other major selling point for the mushroom-based materials is that they grow in agricultural waste streams that can be adapted to regional sources. Corn stalks can be used in the Midwest, but a factory in China could use castoffs from rice production. The mycelia grows throughout the organic mass until the mold is filled, and then Ecovative heats the material to stop growth.

The company won an EPA Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant in 2009, two years after co-founders Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre started out. It is also one of the new SBIR awardees announced today, each another potential success story. (Read Ecovative’s winning research proposal: Growth of a Fungal Biopolymer to Displace Common Synthetic Polymers and Exotic Wood.)

“EPA was first to take the leap and validate this tech,” said McIntyre, the company’s chief scientist.

“The EPA SBIR was really critical for our early stage of development for several reasons. One of the most important was the peer-reviewed validation. And the funding really supported early-stage efforts in moving from the lab bench to a commercially viable prototype production line.”

Bayer, the company’s CEO, recently told The New Yorker that Ecovative aspires to be the new Dow or Dupont. McIntyre said those companies represent ubiquity for consumer products.

“We’d like to be the same,” he said. “We want to have the broadest impact possible in terms of providing environmentally friendly solutions.”

McIntyre and Bayer started small, but their company now employs 54 full-time workers overseeing projects such as new construction materials, opportunities in the automotive market, and a way to replace common plastics in packaging. The work has attracted more EPA SBIR contracts and other awards.

In May, the Small Business Administration recognized Ecovative with the Tibbetts Award, which highlights the best SBIR projects each year. The three criteria for the Tibbetts are technical innovation, business impact and broader social and economic benefit.

Mushroom materials are innovative, durable alternatives to products we often use but rarely think about. In fact, there’s a chance parts of your next house might be grown instead of fabricated or built, adding a new twist to living in harmony with nature.

About the author: Dustin Renwick works as part of the innovation team in the EPA Office of Research and Development.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.