Brown announces grant support for small businesses, potentially boosting biotech

Gov. Kate Brown says she wants small businesses to thrive in Oregon.

As such, she’s allocated $400,000 toward that end. The Small Business Innovation Research Grant Support Program will provide individual grants of $125,000 to four Oregon companies participating in a companion federal grant program, which is potentially good news for for bioscience startups.

Several federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, provide grants to small businesses for research and development under the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program.

But those programs leave gaps, and earlier-stage companies are often courted by other states as they consider where to scale. The idea is to leverage federal dollars and prevent the flight of promising companies. SBIR/STTR matching grants are a tool used by 16 other states.

“This support encourages more small businesses to stay and grow in Oregon,” Brown said in a statement announcing the program.

The Oregon Innovation Council will review applications and recommend award recipients. While they could come from a variety of realms, those in the biosciences would be likely candidates.

In 2015, the National Institutes of Health awarded $17.5 million in SBIR grants to 24 Oregon companies (see below for a listing). Any company with a phase 2 grant could apply for the state funding. Those companies are past the phase of proving the science and are at the point of producing at commercialization plan, said Jennifer Fox, executive director of the Oregon Translational Research & Development Institute and the OTRADI Bioscience Incubator.

“At a crucial time, that (funding) could make a big difference,” Fox said. “If you’re talking about building out your own space after you leave the incubator, it could be huge. More importantly, it’s that (the state is) listening to the needs of these companies.”

Dennis McNannay, executive director of the Oregon Bioscience Association, said the state support is something he’s been advocating for over the past three years.

“It’s great to see that first step, to get on that path,” McNannay said. “Obviously, we would like to see it grow. We know the demand and the need for these funds will grow. As more research begins to percolate out, the need will only get larger.”


Feb 2, 2016
Elizabeth Hayes
Staff Reporter
Portland Business Journal

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