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4 Government Grants for Small Business Owners

Author: Daniel Jackson

While taking on the responsibility of being a small business owner carries with it a high degree of excitement and pride, entrepreneurs also face a great deal of uncertainty and risk. One of the most challenging tasks a small business owner encounters during the course of the business life cycle is finding suitable financing from reliable s. Regardless of a company's specific industry or size, funding is often sought for startup expenses, financing expansion and growth or securing working capital; however, not all funding s are available for each type of capital need.

For small businesses needing help with startup costs, friends, family and private investors are often the most appropriate and accessible choice. Companies in need of working capital or equipment upgrades may find options in the conventional financing space, including banks or alternative lenders. Government grants are also available to small businesses, but these funds are set aside for highly specific and highly technical companies that need financing for advancing research and development activities. The most common government grant programs include The Small Business Innovation Research, or SBIR Program; the Small Business Technology Transfer, or STTR, Program; the Federal and State Technology Partnership, or FAST, Program; and the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs, or PRIME.

SBIR Program

Small businesses engaged in research and development activities are eligible for federal grant funds through the Small Business Innovation Research program. As an awards-based initiative, SBIR provides access to financing specifically used to explore possibilities for commercialization through technological advances. The SBIR program was created with the assistance of the Small Business Administration, or SBA, and offers federal grants through a network of federal government agencies, including the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, and the Department of Agriculture. Funding for qualifying businesses is provided in three phases, each requires an application and imposes caps on total awards.

STTR Program

Another federal grant initiative focused in the arena of research and development is the Small Business Technology Transfer program. The STTR program is meant to foster technological innovations through strategic partnerships between private small businesses and research institutions. Both small businesses and nonprofits working in the field of technology are eligible for the STTR program funding, and awards are granted in a three-phase program similar to the SBIR program. Agencies involved in the STTR program include the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Science Foundation.

FAST Program

The Federal State Technology Partnership program was created to promote a greater degree of competition among small business firms with a focus on technology innovation. This federal grant fund is available to small businesses for a myriad of reasons, including technical assistance, outreach and other support initiatives created by the SBIR and STTR programs. For qualified and accepted small businesses, the FAST program provides up to $100,000 per business to help fund the progress of socially and economically disadvantaged technology firms working to commercialize their services. The FAST program funding is provided through specific grants in partnership with a Small Business Development Center through the SBA, colleges, universities, and state and local economic development organizations.


In partnership with the SBA, the Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs is offered to select small businesses that fall into one of two categories. The first category includes disadvantaged entrepreneurs in need of technical assistance and training programs necessary to automate accounting, financial reporting and inventory management systems. The second category of eligible business owners includes those who are in need of systems and services that provide for the creation or maintenance of microenterprise development programs. The minimum grant amount is set by the SBA at $50,000, with a maximum federal award amount of $250,000 per applicant.

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