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Posted 10.20.04

MoFAST Spurs New High Technology Businesses in Missouri

COLUMBIA, Mo. Greater numbers of start-up technology companies in Missouri are taking advantage of federal grants and, in turn, contributing millions of dollars to the state's economy, thanks to a program operated by University of Missouri Extension.

The Missouri Federal and State Technology Partnership (MoFAST) links the U.S. Small Business Administration and MU Extension and its partners to bring government research and development awards to Missouri's small businesses.

The MoFAST program was established in 2002 to help businesses in the state take advantage of the federal Small Business Innovative Research grant program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR). In the previous year, Missouri small businesses had received a total of 16 awards from the SBIR and STTR programs, resulting in a state ranking of 46. After MoFAST implementation, Missouri received 40 awards, infusing more than $8 million in federal money into Missouri's entrepreneurial high-technology start-up companies.

"Just 30 percent of states nationwide receive more than 50 awards per year," said Mike Nichols, adjunct associate professor in the MU College of Engineering and state director of MU Extension's MoFAST centers. "Thanks in large part to the MoFAST program, Missouri is now poised to enter that very select group."

While Nichols and his staff, with offices in St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla, work to help Missouri companies win more than 50 awards in a year, the benefit to the state is already apparent. From the program's inception through the first quarter of 2004, Missouri received 103 awards bringing more than $19 million to the region. Companies that submit proposals using experienced MoFAST counselors have more than four times the probability of being funded compared with pre-MoFAST applications.

"The goal of MoFAST is to help Missouri companies become aware of the SBIR/STTR program and assist them in preparing successful proposals to obtain grants through that program," Nichols said. "We provide advice from seasoned business specialists with specific expertise in SBIR programs, business assistance and development, corporate management and federal procurement procedures."

The SBIR program was initiated by the federal government in 1982. This legislation, designed, among other things, to stimulate technological innovation, required federal agencies that meet certain criteria to set aside part of their research and development budget for SBIR awards. In 2002, the year the MoFAST program was initiated, the SBIR program made $1.4 billion available, offering small technology-based companies the opportunity to obtain seed capital for research and development early in the innovative process. The STTR program expands that partnership to include joint venture opportunities for small businesses and the nation's premier non-profit research institutions.

One example of the program's success is Renewable Alternatives, a Columbia company founded in July 2003. With MoFAST's assistance, the company received an STTR grant to convert glycerin to propylene glycol, a liquid used in antifreeze applications, and an SBIR grant to convert fats and oils into phase change materials, which use chemical bonds to store and release heat for use in a variety of applications. The company currently has a $300,000 contract with a Chinese company contingent upon the success of the SBIR-funded research, as well as potential sales to U.S. clothing manufacturers.

To make the process as simple as possible, MoFAST established a Web site that helps outline the application process, contains previous winning proposals for comparison, and details the latest news about the SBIR and STTR programs. Prospective entrepreneurs are invited to visit the website at


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