Locust company receives grant for research

The North Carolina Board of Science, Technology & Innovation announced Thursday that 65 small businesses in North Carolina have received 73 grants to develop and commercialize new technologies with the potential for commercialization. In North Carolina fiscal year 2023, which ended June 30, the One North Carolina Small Business Program awarded nearly $2.05 million to pioneering small businesses in 19 counties across the state.

“Investment in early-stage technology companies pays off in good-paying jobs, a strong innovation economy, and products that make our world a better place,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “These innovative small businesses are tackling society’s most pressing challenges in the life sciences, defense, agriculture, and clean energy. Innovative small companies drive growth and competition and help make our state the number one place to do business.”

Since 2006, the One North Carolina Small Business Program has awarded state-funded grants to small businesses that apply for and win awards from two highly competitive federal initiatives: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These federal programs, collectively referred to as America’s Seed Fund™, support technology development by small businesses with the eventual goal of commercialization and economic sustainability for the selected companies. The SBIR and STTR programs are the single largest source of early-stage technology development funding for small businesses, with nearly $4.4 billion awarded nationwide in fiscal year 2022.

Stanly County had one of those businesses. United Protective Technologies, LLC, of Locust received $69,929 to develop a new material for thermal protection systems in hypersonic vehicle components that experience extreme temperatures. This SBIR project is sponsored by the United States Navy, Department of Defense.

“Recognizing the continued importance of fostering innovation statewide, the Board enacted specific Program criteria this year to create a larger, more geographically diverse cohort and to direct greater funding to first-time awardees,” said Janet Cowell, chair of the N.C. Board of Science, Technology & Innovation. “Since 2019, the Board has pursued an agenda for advancing more technological innovation statewide, and that focus is bearing fruit in more cities and counties as a result. Continued and increased funding for the Program will further increase and expand those benefits.”

The One North Carolina Small Business Program awards two types of grants for companies pursuing SBIR and STTR awards: Incentive grants and Matching grants.

The Incentive Program reimburses North Carolina small businesses for costs they incur in preparing their SBIR and STTR applications to the federal government, as applying for the national awards requires a significant investment in time and funds. This program also incentivizes broader technology and geographic diversity among North Carolina’s SBIR and STTR applicants, helping more companies prepare first-time applications and improving the quality of submitted applications.

If companies are successful in winning a Phase I SBIR or STTR award, the Matching Program then supplements those federal funds to further help companies navigate the so-called “Valley of Death,” the time between the launch of a business idea and when that idea generates sustainable revenue. Ultimately, these companies grow their presence in North Carolina to create jobs and attract more investment to the state.

“Innovation drives our economy forward, and small businesses are the very best incubators of innovation,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “The One North Carolina Small Business Program has supported the state’s innovative small businesses for nearly two decades, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to extend the program’s reach and boost the number of small companies engaged with the program this year.”

The 25 companies receiving Matching awards this cycle were awarded nearly $7 million in federal funds.

This year, the One North Carolina Small Business Program more than doubled its historic annual funding to North Carolina’s most economically distressed counties, with more than $100,000 being awarded to companies in counties with an economic Tier 1 designation and more than $380,000 to companies in counties with an economic Tier 2 designation. The North Carolina Department of Commerce annually ranks the state’s 100 counties based on economic well-being and assigns each a Tier designation. This Tier system is incorporated into various state programs to encourage economic activity in the less prosperous areas of the state. The 40 most distressed counties are designated as Tier 1, the next 40 as Tier 2 and the 20 least distressed as Tier 3.

Companies in 19 counties representing the breadth of the state — from Cherokee to Brunswick — received awards. Grantees received funding from eight of the 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR/STTR programs, with technology topics spanning national defense, medical and biotechnology, energy innovation, and agricultural protection. Additionally, the number of first-time applicants receiving awards was the highest since the One North Carolina Small Business Program was established.

Since its inception in 2006, the One North Carolina Small Business Program has helped more than 430 companies across the state to develop and bring to market hundreds of high-tech products. North Carolina is proud to be a member of a select group of states that prioritize innovation by supporting their most creative small businesses. The Program’s grants fill a key gap in North Carolina’s innovation ecosystem, helping to ensure that small businesses navigate the early stages of company growth, and shortening the time needed to develop a concept into a sustainable long-term business model. Many recipient companies commend the One North Carolina Small Business Program as the vital injection of capital they needed to put their companies on a successful trajectory.

The Program has helped to create more than 1,200 North Carolina jobs, develop and commercialize hundreds of high-tech products and services, produce more than $1.6 billion in sales or licenses, and generate more than $8 billion in follow-on capital investments. The companies receiving One North Carolina Small Business Program grants employ more than 3,000 workers across the state. The One North Carolina Small Business Program is administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce on behalf of the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology & Innovation.

The entire list of One North Carolina Small Business Program awardees can be reviewed at the North Carolina Department of Commerce website.

For additional information about the program, see commerce.nc.gov/grants-incentives/technology-funds/one-north-carolina-small-business-program.