For many decades, innovation and government support have had a close relationship. Lately, however, obtaining government support for innovation has become more competitive as a result of economic strains. Fortunately, unique opportunities for private funding are available to supplement what the government cannot provide.
Public funding, of course, will continue coming from government sources. In the US, there is a government agency in place with funding available for just about every type of startup you can imagine. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers funding for wastewater management and climate change projects. The National Institutes for Health (NIH) are a big supporter of nanotoxicology and oncology initiatives.
The key to increasing your chances of scoring public funding is networking. Become involved with the agency, establish a connection within the agency for a referral, and pay great attention to detail when filing your application. A carefully crafted funding request letter can make a lasting first impression on potential investors.
The list below is a snap-shot of what agencies fund certain types of startups and research projects. The majority of these agencies are interested in innovation research and startup companies that aim to solve environmental problems; this can take the form of anything from climate change mitigation to advanced fuel cell technology to environmentally-linked cancer studies.
- EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)
- NIH (National Institutes of Health)
- FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
- SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research)
- NCER (National Center for Environmental Research)
- NSF (National Science Foundation)
- SBA (Small Business Association)
- DOE (Department of Energy)
- DOT (Department of Transportation)
- IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Sciences)
To read the full list, visit Grants.gov.
Funding for university research programs is also provided by the government, generally. Ideal candidates for government funding include long-term projects and unpredictable outcomes. Naturally, a great deal of funding is available from government agencies for education and research-related startups. Also, there are special funds reserved for women- and minority-owned businesses in these industries.
On the other hand, private funding from non-government sources can prove quite substantial. In fact, private funding sources are a great way to supplement any other sources you may have in place. For example, government funding may not cover working capital or advertising costs. A private fund can kick-in and cover the rest of your operational budget; keep the government funds for your research, development, education, and innovation.
Many entrepreneurs are interested in supporting other entrepreneurs because they are rewarded by seeing a startup company blossom and grow into a sustainable industry leader. Networking with fellow entrepreneurs is a must-do for any startup company, especially if there is potential for cross-promotion, service trades, and quality references.
Here’s a list of private organizations that may require membership in exchange for access to funding and other resources. As with the government agencies, each organization targets a certain niche, whether it be women-owned businesses, biotech startups, or non-profit companies.
- American Chemical Society
- American Heart Association
- Biotechnology Research and Development Corporation
- Cancer Research Institute
- Environmental Defense Fund
- General Electric Fund
- Ford Foundation
- Global Fund for Women
- International Foundation of Science
- Life Sciences Research Foundation
To read the full list, visit Private Funding Agencies.
Additionally, there are some incubator-type programs available which aim to cultivate an idea and build financial backing to support the project. Ideas that work with this sort of approach are generally presented by virgin entrepreneurs, students, and inventors. The ideas can be as broad as a book idea or a photography mission. Here’s a list of incubator resources. Each company is a little unique in exactly what they do for entrepreneurs, but overall, they are all fine examples of online tools for funding and beyond.
- Amplify (an LA-based startup with an innovative approach to entrepreneurship)
- Kickstarter (a unique arena that allows you to find, follow, and fund creative projects)
- Gust (a well-organized angel investment firm)
- Quirky (a socially interactive approach to product development)
- Profounder (a guide to crowdfunding with free tools to help grow your startup)
- Innovation Corps (an NSF-funding incubator for university students)
For more companies like these, visit this resource for startups.