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USTAR Provides Utah Entrepreneurs with $639K in Funding Through its TAP Pilot Round

Salt Lake City—The Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR), Utah’s premier technology-based economic development program, today announced its Technology Acceleration Program (TAP) has provided $639,000 to 12 early-stage companies throughout Utah in its pilot round, a result of the initiative’s new direction in helping build a robust innovation ecosystem in Utah. USTAR also released its annual report, which explains in more detail its new direction and enhanced focus on the commercialization of science and technology ideas generated from public and private sources.

USTAR addresses risk capital gaps through a number of initiatives, including its competitive pre-seed TAP fund. Through TAP, USTAR funds Utah-based science and technology startups and early-stage companies to accelerate their technical progress, while also giving established companies the opportunity to mature newly developing technologies. In just six months leading up to the time of the annual report, TAP’s pilot seed round has helped numerous startups and early-stage companies hit important milestones in the viability of their companies and receive $733,000 in additional funding from federal grants and other sources to propel their missions. TAP’s funding has also sparked personnel growth in these 12 micro-companies, bringing about the creation of 12.5 new jobs.

“At USTAR, we support the governor’s vision that Utah will lead the nation as the best performing economy and be a premier global destination in technological innovation,” said Ivy Estabrooke, executive director at USTAR. “Our TAP initiative is one of the clear, effective ways that we are able to achieve this vision. TAP’s competitive grant model has already been incredibly successful in supporting private sector technology development for early-stage companies and new products within our state.”

The companies funded in TAP’s pilot round include Applied Biosensors (Salt Lake City), Farhand Wireless (Salt Lake City), G3 Engineering (Salt Lake City), Helidyne (St. George), Inertial Sense (Salem), Knudra Transgenic (Murray), KP Biosciences (Orem), Metashield (St. George), Pollen Sense (Castle Dale), T3S Technologies (Salt Lake City), Turner Innovations (Orem) and Veritas Medical (Salt Lake City).

“USTAR is a powerful platform for new companies to achieve self-sufficiency,” said Christopher Hopkins, CSO and founder of Knudra Transgenics, a genome engineering company that recently received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. “Our recent grant was made possible by preliminary data, which was empowered by USTAR’s TAP funding and SBIR-STTR Assistance Center.”

In commenting on the impact of USTAR on their business growth, Hopkins added, “The TAP funding, and the resulting NIH SBIR grant, is preparing Knudra for an expanded foothold in academia and will allow us to quickly dominate emerging commercial markets in genome engineering of livestock, plants and humanized disease models. We simply couldn’t have leveraged these opportunities without the financial and mentoring aid of USTAR.”

TAP has been able to help companies achieve such accomplishments in six months. This quick success is the product of changes made during the 2016 legislative session in response to an independent assessment of the USTAR program that indicated the need to realign programs to meet shorter-term goals. This assessment indicated USTAR’s emphasis on research capacity-building at universities was incongruous with its shorter-term goals and metrics of revenue generation and job creation in Utah-based technology companies. Since then, USTAR has implemented extensive changes in governing practices, policies, organizational structure and staff, and has worked aggressively to align practices and procedures to industry best practices. These changes — outlined in further detail in USTAR’s annual report — make technology development for commercialization in the state of Utah more possible.

Under the new direction, USTAR has applied its resources in a more targeted way to support the success of startups and early-stage companies and new technologies within the state and to incentivize new connections and commercialization pathways between universities, companies and government labs. USTAR supports tech entrepreneurs through training, funding, incubator and accelerator programs. These additional programs include the University Technology Acceleration Grants (UTAG), which was recently launched to provide competitive funding to non-profit Utah college or university researchers for commercially oriented technology development programs; the Science and Technology Initiation Grants (STIG), which funds researchers conducting precursor research activities to prepare for federal or industry grants; and the Industry Partnerships Program (IPP), which connects industry stakeholders to a university researchers to address a specific industry technical gap or challenge.

Important elements of USTAR’s original model still remain, including support for universities, academic researchers and incubator programs. But even these initiatives have expanded to offer more robust capabilities and ensure the progression of significant technological innovation and product development projects.

 

This article originally appeared on Utah Business OCT 4, 2016

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