Each year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awards $200 million in funding to entrepreneurs through its congressionally-mandated Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Recently, one of the 11 program directors responsible for deciding who gets funded, took part in the Florida Polytechnic University Entrepreneurial Speakers Series to detail SBIR and STTR opportunities for students and faculty.
Dr. Rick Schwerdtfeger, who described his own entrepreneurial background, offered advice for aspiring and current small business owners who could be eligible for the funding. He said the underlying goal of the program is to help spur the economy by supporting research and development of groundbreaking, high-impact, and high-risk technology.
“We are funding the largest and most diverse network of entrepreneurs in the technology space in the world,” said Schwerdtfeger. “There’s no other larger single investor of technology than the SBIR program in the United States. If you get an SBIR or STTR award, that’s a great sign to future investors.”
Both the SBIR and STTR programs have three phases that focus on developing innovative solutions to pressing problems that can then be commercialized as new products and services or as improvements to existing ones.
“Identifying a customer pain point is the number one most critical thing you can do as an entrepreneur, said Schwerdtfeger. “If you can’t identify what’s really causing your customers difficulty in their lives – that keeps them up at night, whether it’s the cost of a product or the reliability or the technical function it has – if you’re not solving a very difficult pain point for them, they’re not going to give you money.”
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