Four Bay Area Firms Benefit from EPA Grant Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program awarded a combined total of nearly $500,000 last month to four Bay Area companies that are developing technologies to address environmental issues.

BY BILL PICTURE

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program awarded a combined total of nearly $500,000 last month to four Bay Area companies that are developing technologies to address environmental issues.

 

Berkeley-based BioInspira is developing an inexpensive, color-based sensor that monitors methane emissions. Mountain View-based iSense is developing a low-cost, portable sensor that monitors indoor chemical levels. Newark-based KWJ Engineering received one award to develop an inexpensive, low-power sensor that measures methane emissions, and a second award to develop a simple, low-cost at-home test for checking lead levels in tap water.  Finally, SPEC Sensors, also in Newark, is creating a low-cost, low-power sensor that monitors in-home chemical levels.

 

“These small businesses have demonstrated the potential to create technologies that will improve our environment and our economy,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt in a written statement.

 

The SBIR program was created in 1982 to promote collaborations between small businesses in the area of product testing and research to help boost local economies.  The program also promotes technologies aimed at greening manufacturing materials. To compete for Phase I funding, companies must submit for review research that addresses key environmental issues.  

 

EPA spokesperson Maria Soledad Calvino described the review process as “rigorous,” with attention paid to both the technical and commercial potential of a project. Phase I money is intended to be used for performing proof of concept. Once proof of concept is completed, Phase I awardees may apply for up to $300,000 in Phase II funding to help get their ideas to market.

 

Calvino said nearly all Phase I recipients go on to compete for Phase II funding, and roughly 40 percent will win a Phase II contract. EPA doesn’t track how many Phase II recipients’ ideas reach the market, but Calvino estimated that 40 percent eventually have sales resulting from their SBIR award.

 

“The focus of the program is to fund technologies that protect human health and the environment, so it is really geared toward moving green innovation forward,” she said. “An SBIR award can be a great way for a small business to get its idea vetted through a rigorously competitive process and then to receive non-dilutive funding to move their technology towards commercialization.”