Historic legislation signed by Governor Pritzker on Tuesday included creation of a new funding program that will advance Illinois startups who secure federal small business innovation grants.
The equity-centric legislative package, which focuses on expanding economic access and opportunity across the state, adds a new Illinois Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Matching Funds Program. This program provides a cash match for federal funds that help finance early-stage technology companies.
The Illinois SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program will provide a state match of 50 percent, up to $50,000, for qualifying Illinois companies who receive a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant award.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) will administer the Illinois SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program. No details regarding eligibility or application processes have been released.
Illinois startups seeking SBIR/STTR grant funding can access assistance from the FAST Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, which provides the resources, support, and expertise necessary to submit a highly competitive proposal. The FAST Center offers FREE technical assistance, mentoring, and training to technology entrepreneurs across the State of Illinois.
Illinois previously had a SBIR/STTR matching program during the Blagojevich administration, but that funding expired more than a dozen years ago.
The Champaign-Urbana Tech CEO Roundtable — a coalition of tech CEOs located in the greater Champaign-Urbana area — wrote a letter in support of the legislation at that time.
“The state currently pulls below its weight in SBIR funding received, ranking 13th nationally. Increasing the incentive to pursue SBIR funding will help growing companies bring innovative technologies to market in Illinois,” Ryan Shelton, CEO of PhotoniCare and chair of the CEO Roundtable, wrote in the 2019 letter. “State matching programs further encourage small businesses operating within their borders to apply for these types of awards.”
Illinois is now the 23rd state (as of 2020) to establish a federal funds matching program, including neighbors Wisconsin and Iowa.