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GOED project will connect tech firms to grant programs

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development has expanded a program statewide through Nevada’s two universities to help technology entrepreneurs earn federal grant funding to support early-stage development of their businesses or innovations.

Initially funded through the Federal And State Technology Partnership at the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019, the Sierra Accelerator for Growth and Entrepreneurship program is being continued at UNR and expanded to Southern Nevada at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas with GOED Knowledge Fund support.

“At a critical moment for small technology-based businesses in our state, the Knowledge Fund has identified the SAGE program as an ideal partner to substantially improve small technology-based businesses’ access to federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grant opportunities,” said Michael Brown, GOED executive director. “GOED has worked with UNR and UNLV to create a statewide SBIR/STTR support structure by leveraging the recently established SAGE program by further developing its effort and impact as well as broadening its reach.”

SAGE is designed to put Nevada’s small technology-based businesses on the path to earn grant funding through the competitive SBIR and STTR programs. Known as “America’s Seed Fund,” the SBIR and STTR programs offer Phase 1 grants of up to $225,000 and Phase 2 grants of up to $750,000.

“Supporting small technology-based businesses is currently more important than ever for high paying job creation in our state,” Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall said. “I am grateful to the Knowledge Fund for maintaining and expanding the SAGE program, thereby providing countless small technology-based businesses in Nevada with the necessary support to decisively increase their chances of obtaining federal SBIR/STTR grants which have proven to be crucial funding mechanisms for enabling fast business up-scaling and job creation.”

SAGE begins by helping determine if an idea or business qualifies for the SBIR and STTR programs. SAGE then helps its participants determine the right agency to apply to, map a strategy, write the best possible proposal and navigate the federal grant submission system. The services of SAGE are facilitated in partnership with APIOiX, an innovation-ecosystem development consultancy based in Portland, Oregon.

“In its eight months of existence in Northern Nevada, SAGE has worked with over 30 companies and received terrific reviews,” said Ellen Purpus, UNR assistant vice president for enterprise &innovation. “We are excited to partner with UNLV and, with the support of GOED, expand this footprint of entrepreneurial success statewide.”

The early success of SAGE North validates Nevada’s need and demand for SBIR and STTR support. In its first three quarters of operation, more than 100 individuals have attended trainings, with almost one-third of trainees coming from socially or economically challenged populations. SAGE North has worked with more than 30 companies or entrepreneurs, and 12 SBIR and STTR proposals have been submitted.

“We are excited to implement the SAGE South program at UNLV,” said Kegan McMullan, UNLV’s SAGE South coordinator. “We have world-class faculty researchers at UNLV, and it’s imperative to provide them with the necessary resources to foster innovation through the research and development of cutting-edge technologies. I believe we have a truly unique opportunity here to help diversify the economy in Southern Nevada as well as the state as a whole.”

SAGE is open to all qualified Nevada technology-based small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Community entrepreneurs or university-based entrepreneurs, whether faculty, staff or students, may bring their business concepts to the SAGE team for initial review.

As part of SAGE’s ongoing information series, “SAGE Advice,” free informational webinars, are being offered Dec. 1, 2 and 3. For more information or to register, visit the SAGE events web page.

“In Nevada’s higher education system, we find ourselves in a special moment,” said Bo Bernhard, UNLV associate vice president for economic development. “In Presidents Keith E. Whitfield (at UNLV) and Brian Sandoval (at UNR), we have two genuine bridge-builders leading the way, and collaborations like SAGE epitomize the north-south collaborations that can forever transform our state’s socioeconomic engines. SAGE supports our faculty and community with needed resources for research and development, helping mold the innovation ecosystem in the process.”

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