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Commercialization Microgrants

The LaunchTN Commercialization Microgrants program is available to qualifying Tennessee-based early-stage companies that are developing technology with a plan for advancing it into the marketplace. 

Commercialization Microgrants can be used for one of three purposes:

  • Financial support for grant-writing assistance to early-stage companies applying for an SBIR/STTR Phase I, Phase II or Fast-Track award. As of Sept. 2019, the micrograntee win rate is 50%, compared to the national average of <20%.
  • Financial support for grant-writing assistance to early-stage companies applying for a commercialization-oriented research grant outside of the SBIR/STTR program.
  • Financial support to engage technical expertise that will clearly help advance the early-stage companies’ commercialization plans.

Company eligibility

  • Company is Tennessee-based at the time of application, with agreement in good faith to remain in Tennessee for the 12 months following the use of the Microgrant and, if a grant award is made, to remain in Tennessee for 12 months from the time of the award. For this purpose, Tennessee-based means the company is headquartered in Tennessee and its principal business operations are in Tennessee.
  • For SBIR/STTR applications, company’s formation date is no more than five years prior to the time of Microgrant application for Phase I assistance and no more than seven years prior for Phase II and Fast-Track assistance.
  • Company has not received a LaunchTN Microgrant in the 12 months prior to the time of application, with an exception being when a company has received a Microgrant for an SBIR/STTR Phase I award, is now pursuing that project’s Phase II award and is, therefore, applying for Phase II assistance.
  • For SBIR/STTR applications, company must certify participation in a LaunchTN-approved in-person or webinar training program within the 12 months prior to the time of application. Approved programs include:

Company application process

The company must complete the Microgrant Application via the apply button below. Submission of that form and related documents will also indicate the company’s intention to remain based in Tennessee as well as the ongoing processes outlined below. Please review this entire page before submitting a Microgrant Application.

Company referral process 

Companies must be referred by one of the following members of the LaunchTN network:

    • A LaunchTN statewide mentor network EIR or lead mentor
    • An Entrepreneur Center or Accelerator Cohort executive director (in TN or out-of-state)
    • A Tech Transfer Office director from an academic or federal research institution (in TN or out-of-state) or the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services
    • An accredited angel investor or venture fund manager (in TN or out-of-state)

The company must upload a Microgrant Referral Letter on the referrer’s letterhead as part of the application.

The purpose of the referral is to help certify that the company is at a point where commercialization is a legitimate prospect so that LaunchTN is more likely to see an ROI on its funds in the form of a successful grant proposal or technical project.

No self-referrals will be accepted.

Grant-writer approval process

If a company’s Microgrant Application is approved, LaunchTN will send a list of approved consultants. Companies may either select a consultant from the LaunchTN-approved list or may request to engage a consultant of their choosing. If the latter, the company must provide to LaunchTN, in writing, the qualifications of the outside consultant, including, but not limited to, a resume or CV and a list of relevant experience and the corresponding success rate. LaunchTN will approve or reject the proposed outside consultant within five (5) business days. The grant consultant must be external to the company and cannot be a company employee.

Microgrants for which unapproved consultants are engaged will not be funded by LaunchTN.

Microgrant award and post-award process

  • A LaunchTN-designated team will review applications, referral letters and other submitted materials.  The review process may also include a phone or in-person interview.
  • LaunchTN will respond to the company either approving or rejecting the Microgrant request within 15 business days of all materials being submitted. Microgrants for SBIR/STTR and other grant support applications will not generally be approved within 30 days of the applicable grant application deadline.
  • Microgrants will be awarded of up to $4,000 for SBIR/STTR Phase I assistance, up to $6,000 for SBIR/STTR Phase II and Fast-Track assistance pending availability of funding, and up to $6,000 for other grant or technical assistance.
  • Microgrant funds must be collected within six months of LaunchTN notifying the company of their Microgrant.
  • Company will contract independently with the consultant. LaunchTN will not be a party to agreements between companies and consultants.
  • Microgrants will be paid to the company when LaunchTN receives an invoice from the company, plus confirmation of the grant application submission or project completion, a copy of the invoice from the consultant and the company’s W-9.  
  • The Microgrant is specific to the solicitation or project indicated on the company’s application and will not automatically be made available for any other solicitation/project.
  • Companies receiving Microgrants agree to notify LaunchTN of award status and to respond to annual surveys re: job creation, capital raised and other metrics for a period of five years post-award. [Metrics information will be used in aggregate and not attributed to specific companies.]  
  • All companies receiving Microgrants will be asked to submit feedback related to working with their consultant.

For SBIR/STTR applicants submitting a Project Pitch to National Science Foundation:

  • Company submits same Microgrant application to LaunchTN, indicating intent to submit a Project Pitch to NSF.
  • If application is approved:
    • Company will still be approved for up to $4,000 for Phase I SBIR/STTR assistance.
    • Company will receive up to $500 upon providing proof of Project Pitch submission to LaunchTN.
    • If invited by NSF to submit a full proposal, company then receives up to the remaining balance of the original $4,000 (e.g., $3,500 if the first $500 was used in its entirety) upon providing proof of SBIR/STTR application submission.
  • All other program guidelines still apply.

For more information on the Project Pitch process, review this outline from BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting and/or this recorded webinar from the National Science Foundation.

Summary of necessary documents for Microgrant application:

  1. Microgrant Application
  2. Executive Summary
  3. Microgrant Referral Letter

Summary of necessary documents for Microgrant payment:

  1. Invoice from company to LaunchTN
  2. Company’s proof of application submission or project completion
  3. Copy of invoice from LaunchTN-approved consultant to company
  4. Company’s W-9 Form

LaunchTN reserves the right to adjust eligibility criteria and program requirements.

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