• WisBusiness

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Competitive federal grants help keep Wisconsin tech companies in the game


By Tom Still
MADISON – Stratatech is a Wisconsin company at the forefront of efforts to develop substitute skin. It's also a prime example of how emerging companies with innovative technology can compete for, and win, federal research grants that speed discoveries into the marketplace.

Madison-based Stratatech announced this week it has won a $4.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to begin clinical trials of ExpressGraft, a skin substitute designed to heal foot ulcers linked to diabetes. It works by closing the wounds and protecting them with a protein that fights infection.

Similar federal grants in the past have helped Stratatech move another product, StrataGraft, into clinical trials for treatment of burn wounds.

For most companies, the grants represent only a fraction of the money needed to move such therapies to market – but they're vital to attracting private dollars from venture and angel capitalists, whose investments often follow federal grants and turn small R&D companies into larger firms.

In Wisconsin, a state that fares poorly in winning most types of federal grants and contracts, companies such as Stratatech represent an important competitive edge: They are finding ways to turn pure research into products and services the world can use.

The ability of Wisconsin tech-based companies to attract federal research dollars, which are awarded sparingly to companies nationwide, will be highlighted during this week's Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison. Fifty-three Wisconsin companies will be honored by winning 96 federal Small Business Innovation Research grants worth more than $45.4 million in the year ending March 31, 2011.

That represents the largest dollar total for Wisconsin in the 30-year history of the SBIR program, topping the $42 million in grants awarded in fiscal 2005. Since October 2003, Wisconsin companies have won about $245 million in SBIR grants.

While critics say some R&D companies live on the grants year after year and never really grow, most companies use them as early seed money and attract hundreds of times more in private investment dollars. Those investment dollars, in turn, create well-paying jobs.

"It's been a life's blood for this company over the years," said Russ Smestad, a Stratatech executive. "But you certainly have to compete for every dollar and show progress at every step."

Eleven different federal agencies make grants to researchers whose small businesses are helping push innovations closer to the marketplace. In Wisconsin, the federal agencies most active in making SBIR grants are the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense and its various branches, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Like many other research and development programs funded by the federal government, however, the SBIR and related Small Business Technology Transfer grants face an uncertain future. Federal budget deficits and skeptical attitudes about the value of investments in science, from the space program to energy to climate change studies, have put R&D spending under a budget-cutting microscope in Congress.

Even though programs such as SBIR have proven their worth over time in terms of launching private businesses, it's uncertain when they will be renewed by Congress and at what spending levels.

With the federal budget deficit projected a $1.5 trillion this year, some members of Congress are taking no prisoners when it comes to cuts – especially in "discretionary" spending programs such as scientific research. Washington's total investment in scientific research isn't large compared to other parts of the budget, but the feds fund more than one-third of all R&D spending nationwide. That represented $398 billion in public and private spending in 2008, according to NSF. Of that total, about $30 billion is spent on "basic" research, the kind of unfettered inquiry that can lead to game-changing technologies.

Proponents of R&D say the United States will be eating its seed corn if it slashes spending on science. They believe federal investments in R&D over time have not only sped life-saving inventions to the market, but created millions of jobs, spawned hundreds of thousands of companies and helped ensure national security through technological innovation.

That's certainly the case with companies such as Stratatech, which could use ExpressGraft to help many of the 900,000 diabetes victims in the United States who have developed skin lesions. That's if clinical trials go well, of course, and the treatment ultimately wins federal approval.

Reducing the federal budget deficit is serious business, but so is moving research from the laboratory to the marketplace – where it can save lives and create jobs. With its strong base of competitive R&D companies, Wisconsin is demonstrating that federal investments in science do both.

-- Still is president of the Wisconsin Technology Council. He is the former associate editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison.

Labels:


Comments: 1

At February 20, 2016 at 8:21 AM, Blogger aliya seen said...

The computer science assignment help you in various kind of statements where only best plan is needed. The business will flourish with perfect timing.


 

Post a Comment

Back to BizOpinion main page

: See newer blog items : : See older blog items :

BizOpinion site feed
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

wisbusiness.com Social News

Follow Us

Site Sponsors

ARCHIVE

· January 2009
· February 2009
· March 2009
· April 2009
· May 2009
· June 2009
· July 2009
· August 2009
· September 2009
· October 2009
· November 2009
· December 2009
· January 2010
· February 2010
· March 2010
· April 2010
· May 2010
· June 2010
· July 2010
· August 2010
· September 2010
· October 2010
· November 2010
· December 2010
· January 2011
· February 2011
· March 2011
· April 2011
· May 2011
· June 2011
· July 2011
· August 2011
· September 2011
· October 2011
· November 2011
· December 2011
· January 2012
· February 2012
· March 2012
· April 2012
· May 2012
· June 2012
· July 2012
· August 2012
· September 2012
· October 2012
· November 2012
· December 2012
· January 2013
· February 2013
· March 2013
· April 2013
· May 2013
· June 2013
· July 2013
· August 2013
· September 2013
· October 2013
· November 2013
· December 2013
· January 2014
· February 2014
· March 2014
· April 2014
· May 2014
· June 2014
· July 2014
· August 2014
· September 2014
· October 2014
· November 2014
· December 2014
· January 2015
· February 2015
· March 2015
· April 2015
· May 2015
· June 2015
· July 2015
· August 2015
· September 2015
· October 2015
· November 2015
· December 2015
· January 2016
· February 2016
· March 2016
· April 2016
· May 2016
· July 2016
· August 2016
· October 2016
· December 2016
Copyright ©2013 WisBusiness.com All rights reserved. | WisOpinion.com | WisPolitics.com  |  Website development by wisnet.com LLC  | Website design by Makin’ Hey Communications