Innovation is the critical ingredient to creating and growing a successful start-up, but innovation requires money – money that can be very hard to find, especially if your innovation is “high-risk/high-reward.”

Wouldn’t it be great if a venture capitalist investor came to Texas, offering $2.5 billion seed investments in cutting edge technologies created by early stage companies? The only thing that might make it better is if the investor took no stock in those companies, providing “non-dilutive” funding for the boldest entrepreneurs.

Wishful thinking? A fanciful daydream? Not at all. And Texas companies will have a special opportunity to access this funding in just a few weeks.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is the nation’s largest source of early-stage and high-risk research and development funding for small businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) coordinates research dollars across 11 federal agencies to provide seed funding for new ideas that solve important problems and power economic growth.

Some of America’s most successful companies have their roots in the SBIR program, including Qualcomm, Symantec, iRobot, Genzyme and Adaptec. Since its creation in 1982, the small business research program has awarded more than $40 billion in funding to innovative small businesses. The program typically distributes 5,500 unique grants per year, with an average phase I investment of over $150,000 and a second phase of $1 million. This early stage capital has helped to generate over 70,000 patents, and has led to the creation of over 700 public companies.

Texas companies have claimed more than $1.5 billion of that $40 billion total, placing seventh among all states. And although these funds went to over 1,000 Texas companies, considering its population — second in size only to California — world class university and research institutions, and strong business environment, there is significant potential to greatly increase funding to Texas-based companies.

That’s why the SBA is hosting a SBIR/STTR Innovation Summit, Dec. 1-3 in Austin. SBA and 11 federal agencies are encouraging all local and regional innovators to attend the summit so they can learn more about the programs and discover how to access federal research dollars.

The SBIR program, together with the smaller and closely-related STTR (Small Business Tech Transfer) program, provides assistance to companies in three phases: Phase I awards up to $150,000 are focused on determining technical feasibility, usually within a 6-month time frame. Phase II extends the scientific and technical development begun in Phase I, oriented toward the larger commercial potential of the project; Phase II grants are typically $1 million or less over two years. Phase III is focused on commercialization activities, which may include awards from other federal research programs, procurement, or facilitated matchmaking with private sector companies or investment firms.

The upcoming summit provides a program with valuable insights into the technology needs for each agency and how to navigate the application process, while facilitating networking with like-minded entrepreneurs, inventors, and investors.

Perhaps the biggest opportunity however, is the facilitated one-on-one meetings with program managers—15 minutes of face-time with the people who actually review SBIR applications. Instead of traveling to Washington, DC, we’re bringing Washington to you!

Learn how to compete for funding, engage in federal R&D, and commercialize your technological innovations by registering for the summit here: defenseinnovation.us/sbir.html. For additional information and resources on the SBIR program, go to sbir.gov. We look forward to making your innovative company another Texas success story.

via Commentary: America’s Seed Fund is powering Texas innovation | www.mystatesman.com.