Steve Shivvers' chance at making a difference in the world did not come without perseverance.
After nine years of research, design trial and errors and relentless pursuit of funding for his work, the Corydon businessman was able to create an energy-efficient grain-drying system through his family company, Shivvers Manufacturing. His invention, which he hopes to introduce commercially next year, was funded in part with federal grants. "Without government grants, we never could have done this project," Shivvers said.
Shivvers is one of dozens of Iowa entrepreneurs who have tapped into federal agencies in recent years for grants to fund research and develop products at manufacturing companies.
The federal government will offer more than $2.2 billion this year through grant programs to U.S. businesses. The programs target innovative technology projects at manufacturing companies with 500 or fewer workers.
Andrew Peek said his company was able to use a $100,000 grant from the government to fund research on ribonucleic acid, or RNA, which is used in gene therapy. Peek, director of bioinformatics at Integrated DNA Technologies Inc. in Coralville, said the grant funded four researchers who worked on the project for four months.
Integrated DNA Technologies, which produces and ships tiny strands of synthetic DNA to labs around the world, identified three federal agencies that offered the grants for which the company might qualify. It applied to government agency in particular because it had the largest pot of money, giving the company a greater chance of winning a grants, Peek said.
The laborious grant-writing process took more than a month to complete because of all the information that was required. The company plans to submit a second proposal for additional grants next year to further its work on RNA.
Iowa companies received $4.7 million in grants this year, which was up from $3.5 million in 2006
Part of what I do is to help individuals and companies write and review grant applications. It is an added service of mine that I have now added to my other list of sevices because people and businesses that want to apply for grants need to know the basic ins and outs of the process involved in applying for grants.
Massachusetts and California receive "hundreds of millions of dollars each year" in government grants, and they rank among the top states obtaining the federal funds. Iowa is ranked 45th but that rank is increasing in number. There is enormous potential for Iowa companies to receive grant money.
Lack of awareness and support for submitting grant proposals are reasons why more companies don't take advantage of the programs
These grant programs were created to stimulate technology innovation and increase private sector commercialization of those innovations. Companies are eligible for up to $100,000 for a six-month project or $150,000 for a 12-month project. During the second funding phase, companies can receive up to $750,000 for research and development of a product over two years. After that, companies are expected to bring their products to the marketplace.
Shivvers has applied for 10 grants and received four, totaling $415,000, from two government agencies to fund development of his energy-efficient grain dryers. He has also applied for $350,000 in additional funding to further develop his product.
These government grant programs can enable companies to bring out products that would have great benefits to society.
The key is persistence
Federal agencies offering the grants have different deadlines, submission and review processes, topic areas and funding levels.
The best advice that can be given about applying for these grants is to read the solicitations from agencies carefully and following instructions to the letter and that will help improve your company's chances of being seriously considered for the grants.
- No payback because the programs provide grants, not loans.
- Brings recognition, credibility and visibility to companies.
- Can act as a leveraging tool to attract other sources of financing.