Texas might have the nation's best business climate, but it struggles to get it share of federal funding for innovation from small businesses.
Over 30 years, Texas is only seventh in attracting awards from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program or the Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) program.
Adjusted for population, Texas ranks only 34th, claiming less than 4 percent of federal dollars, as compared to California's 20 percent.
An all-day summit on Wednesday is aimed at changing that.
Entrepreneurs and university researchers can meet representatives of 11 federal agencies that make SBIR/SBTT awards at the AT&T Conference Center on the University of Texas campus. The cost is $199 per person. More information is available at www.txfic.org.
"This is the most significant effort Texas has made in over a decade to aggressively expand its share of innovation funding from Washington," said Austin lawyer Pike Powers, chairman of Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities, a nonprofit funded by the governor's office.
The idea behind the conference is to bring Washington decision-makers to Texas since many small businesses cannot afford to travel to the nation's capital to meet with federal program managers.
Powers, a key player in developing the Austin technology economy, said Texas needs greater SBIR/SBTT funding.
"The Texas economy thrives on innovation," he said. "We do not show up where we would like to be among out peer states in funded research and development."
Larry Peterson, executive director of the Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities, said Texas has suffered from regional and institutional competition for federal grants.
"There has not been an organized effort" to expand Texas' rewards, he said.
The conference is produced by the foundation; the University of Texas McCombs Master of Science in Commercial Technology program; TMAC, a university-based public-private partnership to help businesses; the Austin Technology Incubator; the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce; and more than 40 venture development organizations statewide.
Peterson said innovation funding is crucial, adding that "only 3 percent of companies generate our growth."
He said entrepreneurs with unique technology or researchers completing new technologies are candidates for the conference.
Attendees will learn best practices and inside tips for winning awards from national experts.
After the conference, the Texas SBIR/STRR Network can provided assistance, including free and low-cost resources for proposal assessment, administrative review, referrals and introductions, and mentoring.
The network is led by the foundation, in partnership with the Office of the Governor, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Association of Research Parks and Incubators.
Eleven federal agencies provide Phase I grants of up to $150,000 and Phase II grants up to $750,000.
Texas companies earned $80 million in 2011, but Peterson said the state can do better.
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