3 Arkansas Companies Win $444,999 in Federal Funding for Product Research and Development
May 20th, 2015 by Gwen Green
Assisted by the Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center, three Arkansas companies have won federal Small Business Innovation Research funding this spring for ground-breaking product research and development.
The awards total $444,999.
GeneCoMe Biotech of Jonesboro and Fauxsee Innovations of Magnolia won SBIR Phase I funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A third company, Fayetteville-based Ozark Integrated Circuits, won two SBIR Phase I grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The agencies issued the award notices in April and May.
SBIR is an important source of early-stage funding for small companies seeking to get new products or technologies from the lab to the marketplace. The highly competitive three-phase award system provides $2 billion annually to American small businesses that propose innovative ideas meeting the specific research and development needs of participating federal agencies. Interested firms apply by responding to requests for proposals from 11 federal agencies.
The ASBTDC, headquartered in the University of Arkansas at Little Rock College of Business, specializes in helping Arkansas-based, research-capable companies pursue SBIR funding and navigate the lengthy and tedious application process.
“For first-time applicants, the average success rate is 15 percent,” said Rebecca Norman, the center’s innovation consultant and SBIR specialist. “To prepare a winning SBIR Phase I proposal, a company needs to have a highly detailed work plan, a qualified project team and strong interest from the commercial market. By taking advantage of ASBTDC’s free proposal development and market research services, Arkansas entrepreneurs greatly increase their chances of submitting competitive SBIR proposals.”
Officers from GeneCoMe Biotech, Fauxsee Innovations and Ozark Integrated Circuits all expressed appreciation for ASBTDC’s assistance.
“The ASBTDC was a tremendous help in two areas: providing basic market research and by critiquing earlier versions of the proposals. All of this was done in a very timely manner,” said Ozark IC’s CEO Dr. Matt Francis.
“Rebecca Norman of the ASBTDC was essential in the proposal writing process, because of her extensive knowledge and advice,” said Brandon Foshee, president and CEO of Fauxsee Innovations.
GeneCoMe Biotech Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Giuliana Medrano said, “Rebecca Norman of the ASBTDC guided me during the whole process of the grant applications, from registration of the company, to the SBIR application process, pre-award and post-award documentation. I can’t be more thankful for Rebecca’s assistance on this proposal application. She is the best innovation consultant in the state.”
The funded projects have vastly different applications, from poultry production to assistance for the visually impaired to space exploration.
First-time SBIR winner GeneCoMe Biotech received a $99,999 grant from the USDA Animal Production and Protection SBIR program to develop a plant-based method for treating poultry diseases such as coccidiosis.
“Our long-term goal is to apply our cytokine as an alternative to antibiotics and antimicrobials to prevent diseases that affect the poultry industry,” said GeneCoMe Biotech’s Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Giuliana Medrano. “Currently, there are a lot of efforts to eliminate the use of antibiotics from U.S. broiler chicken flocks. We have developed a rapid and cost-effective method to produce chicken cytokines in tobacco plants.”
According to the USDA SBIR national program leader, the agency funded only 10 of 39 qualified applications for the program this year.
GeneCoMe Biotech has already received positive responses from its initial target market – the research reagent community – as well as the poultry industry. Medrano noted that leaders of the U.S. Veterinary Immune Reagent Network Consortium and industry leader Tyson Foods have both expressed interest in the company’s research project.
The $100,000 USDA SBIR grant is the second SBIR Phase I award for assistive device company Fauxsee Innovations. Fauxsee won SBIR funding from the National Science Foundation in 2013 that allowed the company to develop a working prototype of its Roboglasses™ product. The visually impaired can wear Roboglasses just like sunglasses to receive sensory feedback that alerts them to upper-body obstacles.
The USDA funding will allow Fauxsee to expand on the Roboglasses prototype to develop a new product called RoboFind™. Out of 32 applications for USDA’s Community and Rural Development program, Fauxsee’s was one of just six that received funding, according to the agency’s national SBIR program leader. The new assistive device will address USDA’s goal to improve living and working conditions for individuals with sight impairment in rural areas and communities.
“RoboFind will allow the user to more efficiently find places and things in a rural setting, where it is much more difficult for an individual who is sight-impaired,” said Brandon Foshee, Fauxsee’s CEO and president.
For the RoboFind project, Fauxsee Innovations will partner with the engineering department at Southern Arkansas University. “Dr. Mahbub Ahmed will use SAU facilities and equipment to design and fabricate all the plastic components for this device,” said Foshee.
Ozark Integrated Circuits
Semiconductor company Ozark Integrated Circuits has received notice of two separate NASA SBIR Phase I awards totaling approximately $245,000.
For the first NASA award project, Ozark IC will develop an ultraviolet array to provide a reliable UV imager for NASA’s earth and planetary science missions. For the UV imager, Ozark IC will utilize its patent-pending UV sensor.
For the other award, the company will address NASA’s need for a micro-controller to provide real-time programmability for extremely high-temperature environments, such as the proposed mobile lander for Venus.
“Ozark IC’s expertise is designing analog and mixed-signal circuits for use in extreme environments at very high and/or very low temperatures and under high-radiation,” said Francis, the company CEO.
The projects also have potential commercial uses. Francis noted that a commercial application for the UV imager is in machine vision, where the devices could be used for real-time inspection of printed circuit boards or manufacturing processes. The microcontroller has applications for many markets interested in capturing, processing and transmitting signals in high-temperature environments, such as down-hole oil exploration, commercial aviation, furnaces and automobile engines.
The company previously won SBIR Phase I awards from NSF and NASA. Ozark IC won a NSF SBIR Phase I award in 2013 and a NASA SBIR Phase I award in 2012. Working in collaboration with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Ozark IC has also won three non-SBIR federal awards.