$825,000 in state matching grants advance 9 high-tech small businesses

MADISON – Nine small businesses in Wisconsin will receive matching grants to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding. Three businesses, selected for Phase I, will receive $75,000 each, and six Phase II businesses will receive $100,000. 

The state matching grant program provides assistance to companies in the process of completing a project in the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. This is the 15th round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the University of Wisconsin System’s Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) began in 2014.

Since 2014, 105 awards have been given, equaling nearly $8.2 million, to 18 communities throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 180 employees and obtaining over $30 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

Phase I recipients: 

  • Immuto Scientific of Madison is a contract research organization (CRO) providing analytical services for drug development;
  • Plumb Pharma of Madison has developed a platform technology for super-extended-release medications that extends release 3-5 times longer than current medications; and
  • Rapid Radicals of Milwaukee is a water tech startup developing a wastewater treatment that will eliminate sewer overflows and basement backups during high-intensity precipitation events.

Phase II recipients:

  • Holos of Madison is developing an augmented reality/virtual reality platform using a natural hand-, eye- and voice-based input system that enables anyone to create immersive virtual environments and interact with complex information;
  • SafeLi of Milwaukee is using Graphene Monoxide to double the lifetime of lithium ion batteries and charge them six times faster, offering a safer solution for users of electronic vehicles, power tools and consumer electronics;
  • Microscopy Innovations of Marshfield is creating novel products for microscopy laboratories;
  • Rapid Imaging of Middleton is delivering products leveraging augmented reality/artificial intelligence to government and enterprise customers that address image and video processing challenges faced by operators and viewers;
  • CompRex of De Pere plans to develop an advanced heat exchanger for use in aerospace applications while reducing the size and cost of the exchanger; and
  • Nutrient Recovery & Upcycling of Madison is providing a sustainable alternative to traditional mined fertilizers by recovering post-consumer phosphorus from wastewater.

“SBIR Advance helps tech companies take their business to the next level, from the pure research phase into business development, sales and growth,” said Aaron Hagar, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WEDC. “Wisconsin has a great track record for companies securing SBIR funding, and we are excited to provide this needed assistance to capitalize on the federal dollars coming into our state.”

The U.S. government created SBIR/STTR programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation, providing $2.5 billion in federal research funding each year. Because those funds cannot be used for commercialization activities, the SBIR Advance program fills the gap. Funds can be used to pursue market research, customer validation, intellectual property work or other areas that speed commercialization. 

SBIR Advance grant recipients receive CTC staff support throughout the commercialization process, including Lean Startup training, business plan review and other consulting.

“This is an exciting time to be able to provide this assistance,” said Dr. Todd Strother, Program Manager. “Phase II teams have given us positive feedback on our recently updated programming, and everyone in this round of Phase I teams has already been exposed to Lean Startup, which is rare. This cohort is well-positioned for success.”

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit The next solicitation is expected to open in late July. Selected SBIR Advance participants undergo Lean Startup training that is intended to assist with their SBIR Phase II applications.

SBIR Advance is part of a Start-Seed-Scale (S3) initiative WEDC is pursuing with the help of the UW System and other business leaders throughout the state to remove barriers to high-tech commercialization. Under the S3umbrella, WEDC and its economic development partners are implementing financial and operational assistance programs designed specifically to address Wisconsin’s business startup and seed-funding challenges. Another S3collaborative effort between WEDC and the UW System is the Ideaadvance Seed Fund, also managed by UW System Administration’s CTC. 

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship. CTC provides one-on-one expert consulting to early-stage emerging technology businesses throughout Wisconsin. CTC has collaborated in acquiring more than $100 million in federal and other funding for clients. Learn more at; follow @WisconsinCTC on Twitter.

About The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) leads economic development efforts for the state by advancing and maximizing opportunities in Wisconsin for businesses, communities and people to thrive in a globally competitive environment. Working with more than 600 regional and local partners, WEDC develops and delivers solutions representative of a highly responsive and coordinated economic development network. Learn more at; follow @InWisconsin on Twitter.