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Arrowhead-based NM FAST hosts SBA SBIR Road Tour visit to Albuquerque

The Small Business Administration’s Small Business Innovation Research Road Tour stopped in Albuquerque on Aug. 14 as part of the Southwest Tour, which also included stops in Tucson, Arizona; El Paso, Texas; and Boulder, Colorado.

Hosted by the New Mexico Federal and State Technology Partnership Program, Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University’s SBIR/ Small Business Technology Transfer proposal assistance program, the event brought together small businesses from across the state to learn how their innovative ideas could be funded through federal opportunities.

“The SBIR Road Tour is a great way to ground your idea in reality,” said Del Mackey, one of NM FAST’s SBIR experts. “For many of our clients, it provides that first indication on whether they are creating something unique and novel, hallmarks of the SBIR and STTR programs. And, regarding some agencies, this might be the only chance to talk with a key decision maker. We look forward to continuing efforts to provide value-added programs like NM FAST to all New Mexico small businesses.”

The day consisted of SBIR program overviews from 14 federal agencies, panels on how to engage with agencies and be successful at being awarded funding, and rapid-fire pitches from local organizations that provide assistance and resources to small businesses.

The afternoon portion of the day focused on the wealth of resources available to small businesses in New Mexico, with one panel highlighting New Mexico businesses that were successful at leveraging SBIR funding to move their business forward, and another panel highlighting organizations that have resources and assistance available for SBIR/STTR applicants and awardees.

“The SBIR Road Tour was an amazing opportunity to meet one-on-one with program officers from the major funding agencies and hear the ‘behind the scenes’ on how they make funding decisions,” said Karen Crow, a Santa Fe-based small business developing a novel sleep science technology. “The feedback was invaluable in helping us avoid pitfalls and incorporate best practices in our grant application package. I feel much better prepared to submit a successful SBIR package, and am forever grateful for this tremendous resource.”

The highlight of every Road Tour is the ability for small businesses to meet one-on-one with agency program managers, a rare opportunity to gain face-time and talk about their innovation, and how it fits within agency interests. The Albuquerque Road Tour held 210 of these one-on-one sessions throughout the day.

“As a new business owner, particularly within a technology field, I found the SBIR Road Tour experience very refreshing. I found that the various program managers for the different agencies were easy to work with, and I felt that they truly met me with a passion in understanding my business development needs,” said Michael Davis, a New Mexico small business owner. “I’d highly recommend this SBIR process for any business owner that's seeking a different path relative to financial sponsorship or collaborative initiatives with other businesses. I’ve learned that this journey is all-inclusive and this SBIR process puts all of your very important steps and players in the same room with you.”

Events like the Road Tour are a unique outreach tool designed to engage more small businesses the SBIR/STTR programs. First-time applicant engagement is a cornerstone of NM FAST program, which provides free proposal development assistance to small businesses throughout New Mexico.

“I hope the Road Tour will have piqued the interest of small businesses on the fence about applying to SBIR/STTR,” said Dana Catron, director of the NM FAST program. “Knowing that there are free resources available to help create a strong proposal package can make a huge difference in whether or not they apply for funding. Encouraging small businesses to take advantage of these programs is critical if we are going to create and sustain a thriving innovation ecosystem within New Mexico.”

SBIR and STTR programs provide equity-free federal research and development dollars to small businesses to move their technology further along the commercialization pathway, a key driver for regional economic development and growth.

The NM FAST program is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. SBA, and provides free SBIR/STTR proposal development assistance to small companies throughout New Mexico. NM FAST will be entering its fifth year of programming this fall.