SBIR-STTR matching funds program supports high-paying jobs, technology development in the Commonwealth

By the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

Synaptek Technology on Mobile Device (Courtesy Synaptek LLC)

Growth of high-tech businesses in Kentucky has shown no sign of slowing down, and the state is doing its part to ensure it is keeping up with the demand. Thanks in large part to the SBIR-STTR Matching Funds Program, entrepreneurs, innovators and tech-companies are building momentum in the Commonwealth.

Nine innovative Kentucky companies recently received a total of $900,000 in state matching grants to support the growing technology industry in Kentucky. The grants are part of the Commonwealth’s nationally recognized Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Matching Funds Program. The Kentucky grants match, in part, $5.12 million in federal grants the businesses will collectively receive.

The program, overseen by KY Innovation within the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, provides critical non-dilutive capital for promising early-stage tech companies by matching all or part of federal SBIR/STTR awards received by Kentucky-based businesses or companies committed to relocating to the state.

“Kentucky continues to position itself as an innovative, forward-thinking state,” Gov. Beshear said. “The SBIR-STTR program is an incredible opportunity to support the individuals and companies committed to creating positive change and bringing innovation to the commonwealth. Investing in and supporting high-tech companies in Kentucky is paramount in creating a dynamic economy and workforce of the future. The Commonwealth is a great landing spot for young professionals looking to enter or further develop a career in technology.” 

Synaptek LLC

Synaptek CEO Kathryn Van Pelt
Synaptek CEO Kathryn Van Pelt (Courtesy Synaptek LLC)

One of the nine awardees of the SBIR-STTR program grants is Synaptek LLC, based out of Lexington. They are using technology to demonstrate the feasibility of remotely monitoring concussion symptoms using smartphones and mobile devices.

“Symptom tracking is one of the most relied upon metrics for diagnosing concussions and tracking recovery,” Synaptek CEO Kathryn Van Pelt said. “The technology developed through the National Science Foundation SBIR program will transform how symptoms are used and evaluated for concussion care.”

Affording small tech companies in the Commonwealth the opportunity to develop cutting-edge, life-improving technology is one of the main benefits of the SBIR-STTR program.

“The SBIR program has had a tremendous positive impact on our company by providing the resources that would otherwise be unavailable for us as an early-stage company to work on this technology,” Van Pelt added.

RalphVR Inc.

Al Baker, Technology Lead, and Richard Hoagland, Founder and CEO of RalphVR.
Al Baker, Technology Lead, and Richard Hoagland, Founder and CEO of RalphVR. (Courtesy RalphVR)

Another company who is seeing the advantages provided by the SBIR-STTR program is RalphVR Inc., in Lexington. They are using their platform to create a digital therapeutic virtual reality tool to address social isolation and improve geriatric care.

“Our mission at RalphVR is to improve health, reduce costs and reduce financial burden for vulnerable groups through innovative digital health applications,” said company CEO Richard Hoagland. “VRTogether is an evidence-based virtual reality platform to reduce social isolation and loneliness in senior citizens by connecting them with loved ones across any distance to share meaningful experiences.”

RalphVR, like Synaptek and so many other Kentucky small-tech companies with big ambitions, are using the SBIR-STTR program to take their resources and projects to the next level.

“The SBIR program has been a catalyst for our company,” said Hoagland. “Currently, we are participating in I-Corps, which is a highly selective supplemental grant program run by the National Science Foundation to accelerate commercialization of technology. This program is one example of the advantages our company has been able to utilize because of our initial SBIR award.”

These programs provide opportunity and valuable funding for the growing tech community in the Commonwealth. For companies considering using these grants to their advantage, KY Innovation & its partners provide resources to help with the application process.

SBIR-STTR Program Application Assistance

  • A wide range of free, expert services to educate and assist with grant application and submission are available.
  • Kentucky Innovation Investment Program (KIIP) – Kentucky companies can complete an onboarding process to learn about SBIR/STTR before being connected to expert grant writing services and post-grant management assistance.
  • In addition to KIIP, KY Innovation partners with the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation to support agency specific accelerator programs that prepare companies to successfully compete for funding.
  • The next SBIR Match application window is expected to open in March 2022.
  • Applicants need follow the application instructions requirements and submit the full application with supporting documents to sbir@kyinnovation.com.

Additional information about the program, guidelines and application instructions can be found at kyinnovation.com/sbir.

For more on how Kentucky is growing innovation, visit kyinnovation.com.

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