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Staying on top of funding opportunities

By Posted on March 17, 2015


The early bird catches the moolah. I’m pretty sure that’s how the saying goes.

This parable rings true for energy and transportation researchers, startups, established small businesses, and even large companies. Funding is the financial fuel that allows technology developers to continuously innovate and grow their companies. Funding, particularly non-equity funding, is critical for companies and researchers in ushering their technology closer to market. This funding becomes increasingly important when the capital and time intensity of the technology development turns off more conventional venture capital investment.

What’s frustrating about these funding opportunities is that they often seem short-lived and inaccessible. One day you might check the US Department of Energy’s funding exchange portal and there’s nothing, and then the next day the submission deadline has passed for the solicitation that would have been perfect for your technology. It also takes time to scour different resources for appropriate opportunities on a regular basis – time that many researchers don’t have to spare.

NextEnergy works to address these frustrations and make it easier for energy and transportation technology developers to keep two fingers on the beating pulse of funding opportunity streams. Decreasing the frictional inefficiencies in finding funding enables researchers to take a more proactive approach in their efforts. The more prepared you are, the more successful you’ll be in securing that elusive grant that could make or break your company. To help grow the energy and transportation sectors in Michigan, it is NextEnergy’s responsibility to help researchers and companies be as prepared as possible for when the best funding opportunities arise.

With that said, NextEnergy is pleased to introduce the “Funding Opportunities Newsletter.” Each month, the NextEnergy team will compile the most relevant funding opportunities for energy and transportation innovators and send them to you in a neatly packaged, easily digestible newsletter. We’ll include what’s important – dollar amount, timeline, and brief description of opportunities – from federal agencies, state and local governments, cleantech incubators, business competitions, and private foundations.

Additionally, each month, we will feature one or two funding opportunities that have the highest value for our clients, and blog about the best way to “WIN” them. This Funding Findings blog will discuss strategies, tips, experiences, and other resources for pursuing funding opportunities.

This month, our featured funding opportunity is the National Science Foundation’s SBIR/STTR Phase I solicitation. The NSF Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer grant program represents an attractive opportunity for small businesses to fund more basic research in materials, IT, power electronics, manufacturing, etc. that aren’t necessarily covered by other funding programs. The STTR program requires the proposing small business to partner with a university or other non-profit research organization on their project. Phase I projects (out of three phases) are usually funded up to $150,000 for six months of R&D. If the Phase I project is successful in hitting key milestones, the NSF may invite a proposal for a longer SBIR Phase II project grant.

Although the proposals are due in mid-June, getting a head-start will increase your likelihood of success. The solicitation lists the name and contact information of the different NSF program managers that lead the SBIR technology areas. The first step in pursuing the NSF SBIR Phase I opportunity is to reach out to the most relevant program manager and begin the conversation about your technology and proposed research. Once you provide a brief summary of your business and technology, you can then discuss with the individual the applicability of a NSF SBIR, how it fits into your technology development plans, and how your technology fits into the NSF’s roadmap. The sooner the better – program managers are not allowed to discuss specific proposals after applications are open.

When pursuing any SBIR/STTR grant, be sure to reach out to BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting. Funded in part by the state of Michigan, the staff at BBC are the experts in preparing SBIR/STTR proposals for a number of different agencies. Visit for more information on how they can support your proposal.

NextEnergy is dedicated to supporting Michigan’s most innovative advanced energy and transportation technology developers. If you have any questions about which funding opportunities are right for your company, or how NextEnergy can support your strategy, please contact me at or Dan Radomski at


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