A program to help technology entrepreneurs earn federal grant funding to support the early-stage development of their businesses or innovations is being expanded statewide with the support of the State of Nevada Knowledge Fund and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). Sierra Accelerator for Growth & Entrepreneurship (SAGE) was successfully launched by the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019 and now, through a partnership developed with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), it is being expanded to include a new SAGE South program. The Knowledge Fund grant supports both SAGE North and SAGE South programs.
SAGE is designed to put Nevada inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs on the path to earn grant funding through the competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (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.
“We are planting seeds to support business development and GOED is enormously supportive of these efforts,” said Ellen Purpus, the University’s assistant vice president for enterprise and innovation. “Nevada is working to diversify its economy, and supporting smaller tech companies can go a long way toward this goal. Early-stage companies are often at a point that they are not able to obtain investors. SBIR/STTR grants can give early-stage companies a leg up.”
“Supporting small technology-based businesses is currently more important than ever for high paying job creation in our state,” said Nevada Lieutenant Governor Kate Marshall. “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.”
“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 (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant opportunities,” said Michael Brown, GOED Executive Director.
SAGE is open to all Nevada technology-based small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. SAGE begins by helping determine if an idea or business qualifies for the SBIR and STTR programs. Community entrepreneurs or university-based entrepreneurs, whether faculty, staff or students, may bring their business concepts to the SAGE team for initial review.
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 mentoring and technical-support services of SAGE are facilitated in partnership with APIOiX, an innovation and entrepreneurship management company based in Portland, Oregon.
The early success of SAGE North validates Nevada’s need and demand for SBIR and STTR support. In its first three quarters of operation, well over one hundred individuals have attended SAGE North 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.
“SAGE is the first SBIR/STTR assistance program in Nevada and we are seeing strong demand for its services,” said Purpus. “We are excited to partner with UNLV and, with the support of GOED, expand this footprint of entrepreneurial success statewide.”
“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,” said Kegan McMullan, SAGE South coordinator at UNLV. “After all of the personal, physical and economic destruction resulting from COVID-19, it's more important than ever to invest in long-term, sustainable growth through the commercialization of technologies. By joining with SAGE North we are building a statewide partnership in an unprecedented way.”
As part of SAGE’s on-going information series, “SAGE Advice,” free informational webinars are being offered on 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 and Brian Sandoval, 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 socio-economic engines. SAGE supports our faculty and community with needed resources for research and development, helping mold the innovation ecosystem in the process.”