RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Four startups focused on a variety of technologies are the latest companies to receive grants from NC IDEA.

The “proof of concept” funds are designed to help companies move closer to commercialization of their technologies. The grants are part of NC IDEA’s commitment to economic development across North Carolina. NC IDEA also handed out grants in 2006.

More than 50 companies applied for the grants.

Receiving the funds were:

Protochips – A Raleigh-based company, it is developing a platform for real-time monitoring of nanoscale processes. Amount: Amount awarded: $27,000.

Microelectronics Assembly Technologies – Also based in Raleigh, the firm is seeking to develop means of dealing with heat produced by semiconductors. Amount: $45,000.

DPoly Systems – Based in Chapel Hill, the firm is using technology developed at North Carolina State University to increase the efficiency while also decreasing the cost of recycling common plastics. Amount: $39,000.

Oncogenomics – Based in Durham, the company is developing means to predict cancer recurrence and response to therapy through molecular testing. Amount: $45,000.

The funds are grants. NC IDEA receives no equity in the companies through this program.

The purpose of the grant program is to help startups bridge the gap between development of prototypes and actual ability to produce products and revenues when venture capital firms are most interested in making investments.

“The mission of NC IDEA is to create jobs through commercialization of research innovation,” said David Rizzo, chief executive officer of NC IDEA. “The grant program is a catalyst for technological breakthroughs developed in North Carolina that have a significant potential to successfully transition into commercially viable, high-growth enterprises.”

Another round of grants will be awarded later this year.

Last year, in the first year of the program, NC IDEA handed out $225,000 to seven firms.

The firms are required to incorporate if they have not already and must agree to use the funds for business-related expenses before grants are awarded.

NC IDEA also operates a venture capital fund and is in the process of raising a second fund that would be operated as a profit generating venture. In 2005, NC IDEA was spun off from MCNC, which continues to operate statewide networking services.

As part of the grant program, NC IDEA helps firms send executives through the FastTrac training program put on by the Council for Entrepreneurial Development.