On the Road from Cajun Country to the Heartland to Seed Small Business Innovation Research

By Greg Lank

Group holds up a sign that reads "SBIR Road Tour"

On our “Seeding America’s Future Innovations” tour

In April, I had the pleasure of representing EPA on a bus tour during the second leg of “Seeding America’s Future Innovations,” a national effort to spread the word about the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. The two programs are coordinated by the Small Business Administration and administered by EPA and 10 other federal agencies. Together—“America’s Largest Seed Fund”—they provide $2.5 billion of contracts and other awards to small, advanced technology firms to spur discoveries and facilitate the commercialization of innovations.

We traveled from the Cajun country of Long Beach, Mississippi and Ruston, Louisiana through Texas and into the heartland, including Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Wichita, Kansas and finally Columbia, Missouri.  At every stop, each representative shared an overview of their agency’s SBIR program, including existing opportunities and exciting success stories of now thriving businesses have come out of the program.

Following the presentations, companies had the rest of the morning to sit down with representatives from the SBIR program of their choice for one-on-one meetings and to get answers to their questions.  The primary question that every company asked me was if their technology would fit into one of EPA’s SBIR topic areas. And I learned that there is broad interest in water resources and energy recovery—exciting topics where innovation can lead to the recovery and reuse of resources that are presently lost in the waste stream.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

Everyone was humbled and honored to pay their respects at The Oklahoma City National Memorial

In between locations the Road Tour stopped at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the National Institute of Aviation Research (NIAR). Everyone was humbled and honored to pay their respects at The Oklahoma City National Memorial, which honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and others affected by the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. At NIAR, I was fascinated to see the testing that goes into making air travel safe globally.

Each packed-house tour stop proved to be a phenomenal platform to collaborate, educate and learn.  Collaboration occurred between federal agencies, academia and innovators.  Finally, all who attended functioned as educators and students.  Not only were we able to educate the attendees about our programs, but meeting them provided us with the opportunity to learn about the exciting innovations coming down the pike from our Nation’s best and brightest. The next tour will be the north central tour from July 13-18. That will be followed the final tour, August 17-21 through the Pacific Northwest.

To learn more about EPA’s SBIR program, visit www.epa.gov/ncer/sbir.

About the Author: Greg Lank is a mechanical engineer in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He manages grants and contracts for the SBIR and People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) programs, which facilitate the research, development and deployment of sustainability innovations.


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