Smart people are thinking up innovative  technology-based concepts every day. That’s the easy part. Securing funding to  develop an idea is where it gets hard. Luckily for Utah small businesses,  there’s help to make your idea more competitive.

The Federal Government’s  Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer  (STTR) grant programs are specifically designed for small entrepreneurial  technology-driven enterprises. The grants are a source of non-equity funding for  emerging business to provide research and development. In total the SBIR-STTR  programs offer more than $2.6 billion annually to support the development of  technology by small businesses across the United States.

Vying for these  funds can be an intense, complex process that is daunting for boot-strapping  young companies as well as the more established technology business.

To  address this need, the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR)  opened the SBIR-STTR Assistance Center (SSAC) in cooperation with and located at  Salt Lake Community College-Miller Campus in Sandy. The SSAC is Utah’s source  for information and assistance in preparing and submitting SBIR-STTR  applications.

And as Since the SSAC began in 2008, the center has helped  more than 100 Utah businesses and innovators and brought more than $4.7 million  to the state in federal grants. Mary Cardon, manager of the SSAC said, “The  SBIR-STTR grant process is a competitive and very time consuming process. At the  SSAC we try to make this process as smooth and simple as we can for small  for-profit companies that have innovative technology-based  ideas.”

USTAR’s SSAC application success rate is 25 percent, which is  considerably higher than the 16.6 percent national average. Winning a Phase I  SBIR or STTR grant to prove the feasibility and technical merit of a business  concept or technology means the applying company can secure up to $150,000. With  a successful Phase I, companies can move to a Phase II grant where over 2 years  prototypes are developed with $1 million in non-equity position  dollars.

Doug Turnquist, CEO of Thermimage, Inc., a Utah company that has  developed a noninvasive, painless and less costly way to measure temperature  deep within body tissue, successfully won a Phase I SBIR grant from the National  Institute of Health with the help of USTAR’s SSAC.

Turquistsaid, “The  experience and professionalism of the entire SBIR-STTR team can’t be understated  and is a valuable resource provided by the State of Utah in support of young  companies.”In addition to the SBIR and STTR programs, SSAC has been awarded two  grants from the Federal and State Technology (FAST) partnership program. This  program is designed to stimulate economic development among small  high-technology businesses. The FAST grants places a particular emphasis on  helping socially and economically disadvantaged firms compete in the SBIR-STTR  programs.

“The FAST grant program is specifically geared to help states  in assisting small businesses with the SBIR-STTR grant program,” Cardon said. “This program provides dollars to allow regional outreach and effectiveness. We  are thrilled to have received our second award of $80,000 this year.”

For  those who have questions about whether their business or technology idea or  concept qualifies for a SBIR-STTR grant, the SSAC has set up an easy,  interactive questionnaire and informational tutorials “Is SBIR-STTR For You?” on  their website Cardon said. She encourages those interested to visit www.innovationutah.com/sbir/training   to get started with the process.