Utah Technology Innovation Funding Program Celebrates Its First Year

Kaitlyn ClarkeUtah Innovation Center

The Utah Technology Innovation Funding (UTIF) program is nearing its first-year anniversary of providing microgrants and nonrecourse loans to Utah small businesses. Launching in September 2021 as a pilot program, UTIF supports small businesses developing innovative technology by leveraging a federal program powered by the Small Business Administration. 

Branded as America’s Seed Fund, eleven federal agencies offer grants and contracts to small businesses across the country through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. This non-dilutive funding helps companies develop technology and chart a path toward commercialization. The Utah Innovation Center is Utah’s go-to place for small businesses to compete and win federal dollars to pursue research and development of technologies that fill a market gap and provide societal benefit. 

“Creating a competitive proposal to one of these federal agencies is not an easy task,” said Linda Cabrales, Utah Innovation Center director. “It takes great time and well thought-out strategy to be awarded. The Innovation Center provides a roadmap and resources to support Utah companies to win this non-dilutive funding.” 

The UTIF program provides microgrants for new applicants and nonrecourse loans to those who have successfully won a Phase I award and are planning on submitting a Phase II proposal. The standard award for the microgrant is $3,000, with an additional $2,000 for disadvantaged small businesses or those located in rural Utah counties. The microgrant helps offset the costs of putting together a competitive Phase I proposal to one of the federal agencies. This process can take upwards of 200 hours but can result in awards between $75,000 and $400,000 to establish the proof of concept of the technology. 

Once a Phase I award is received, and the project is completed, the small business can apply for a Phase II award with the federal agency. These awards can be upwards of $1 million and go higher at some agencies. The UTIF nonrecourse loan provides gap funding for young companies waiting to hear if they’ve received their Phase II award. 

The standard nonrecourse loan is $50,000, with an additional $10,000 for companies meeting the other criteria. The nonrecourse loans act as a grant until the technology becomes commercially successful, at which time the loan can be paid back interest-free or over a five-year term with interest. If, for some reason, the company and/or the technology are no longer viable, the nonrecourse loan is forgiven. 
Small businesses interested in learning more about the Utah Innovation Center, the UTIF program, and SBIR/STTR funding opportunities can visit business.utah.gov/innovation or email innovationutah@utah.gov.