$674,000 in state matching grants advance 8 high-tech small businesses

MADISON – Eight innovative small businesses in Wisconsin will receive matching grants to commercialize their innovations, thanks to the SBIR Advance program’s latest round of funding. Four businesses, selected for Phase I, will receive up to $49,000 to $75,000 each, and four Phase II businesses will receive up to $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 14th round of SBIR Advance funding since this collaboration by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the University of Wisconsin System Administration’s Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) began in 2014.

Since 2014,96 awards have been given, equaling nearly $7.4 million, to 18 communities throughout the state. Those businesses reported hiring more than 180 employees and obtaining over $29.5 million in additional capital since receiving the grants.

Phase I recipients: 

  • Ascending Hearing Technologies LLC of New Berlin is developing a custom-fit sound amplification application for smartphones, intended for use by individuals with hearing impairments;
  • Proteovista LLC of Madison is crafting drug discovery assays and personalized medicinal research tools based on the Specificity and Affinity for Proteins (SNAP) platform, which can display the full human genome or proteome on a single glass chip;
  • Retham Technologies of Wauwatosa is developing HITDx, a drug that will replace the slow two-test system that delays patient care in hospital laboratories; and
  • SeedLinked of Viroqua is a web platform that uses crowd-sourced data and advanced analytics to enable plant breeders, seed sellers, farmers and gardeners to choose, acquire, breed and sell place-adapted, specialty seed.

Phase II recipients:

  • AquaMetals of Wauwatosa is developing an industrial instrument that continuously measures the concentration of heavy metals in flowing water for real-time control of water treatment processes;
  • DataChat of Madison is developing an analytics platform that allows business users to self-serve complex analytics pipelines by conversing with DataChat English;
  • NCD Technologies of Madison is engineering and optimizing a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating that improves obscurant munition shelf life/performance and prevents the formation of lethal toxic gas for the U.S. Army; and
  • Phototonic Cleaning Technologies LLC of Platteville is creating a safe, easy-to-use strip coat cleaning system that removes dust, fingerprints, residues and contaminants from precision surfaces. 

“SBIR Advance helps technology-based businesses move from the pure research phase into business development, sales and growth,” said Aaron Hagar, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WEDC. “Wisconsin is one of the top states for companies securing SBIR funding and we are excited to provide this needed assistance to capitalize on the federal dollars coming into the 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 available throughout the commercialization process, including Lean Startup training, business plan review and other consulting. 

“We’ve implemented new programing for our Phase II teams to better prepare awardees for investment and more rapid commercialization and growth,” said Dr. Todd Strother, Program Manager.“We look forward to this new cohort becoming successful. Additionally, our selected Phase I teams are working to mitigate their business risks and will be going through our Lean Startup program. These teams are looking forward to learning how best to reach their product-market fit. We are very pleased with the commitment and dedication of our selected teams as they journey toward a successful venture.” 

For more details on the SBIR Advance program, visit or e-mail . The next solicitation is expected to open in late November.

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 Ideadvance Seed Fund, also managed by UW System Administration’s CTC. Selected SBIR Advance participants undergo Ideadvance Lean Startup training that is modified to assist with their SBIR Phase II applications.

About The Center for Technology Commercialization

The Center for Technology Commercialization is a unit in the University of Wisconsin System Administration’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.