RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Scientific and technology startups in North Carolina will get a boost as the RTP-based First Flight Venture Center expands its LiftOff Program thanks to a $125,000 federal grant.

With the funds, which were announced Tuesday, First Flight, a science and technology incubator, says more companies will receive support through LiftOff which is designed to help startups find and secure non-dilutive funding through grants and other sources.

LiftOff helped North Carolina startups secure $10.2 million in financial support last year, up from $1.3 million in 2016 when the program was launched. The number of companies securing funding quadrupled, accord to FFVC’s annual report for 2017.

The grant comes through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program.

LiftOff also has earned a $50,000 grant through the SBA Growth Accelerator Fund Competition,  a $100,000 grant from the NC IDEA Foundation, a $50,000 grant from the Wege Foundation, and a $30,000 Presidential Initiative Award from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

“Receiving this FAST grant enables First Flight to expand the proven benefits of our LiftOff Program statewide in North Carolina to provide outreach and critical support for early stage science-focused companies in rural communities, as well as traditionally under-represented entrepreneurs, including women and minorities,” said Andrew Schwab, president of FFVC, in announcing the grant.

“The strategic investor readiness evaluation and grant proposal support that our LiftOff Program provides to these entrepreneurs will enable a new generation of science and technology-focused companies to successfully secure additional SBA funding to advance the development of technologies that will benefit all North Carolinians and the world.”

FFVC describes LiftOff as a “financial force multiplier” that is intended “to assist entrepreneurs developing a scientific or technology business in obtaining early nondilutive funding for their start-ups, funding that will not reduce your ownership share.”

The SBA FAST program seeks to provide “training, financial support, and business expertise to technology-focused small businesses, with an emphasis on helping women-owned, rural-based, and socially/economically disadvantaged firms” and to help them participate in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) initiatives that provide funding.

“FAST partners are an important part of the innovation entrepreneur ecosystem,” said SBA administrator Linda McMahonin announcing a total of 24 FAST grants. “They provide training, financial and technical assistance for small, next-generation technology businesses, and help them navigate Federally-funded innovation and R&D programs.”

Partners in the FFVC application for the grant included:

• NC IDEA Foundation, Thom Rhue, President & CEO

• NC Central University Department of Math & Physics, professor Caesar Jackson

• NC Rural Center, Patrick Woodie, President & CEO
• UNC Kenan Flagler Business School, Ted Zoller, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies

• UNC Kickstart Venture Services, Don Rose, Director

• Eva Garland Consulting, Dr. Eva Garland, Founder & CEO

• UNC Wilmington Center for Marine Science (MARBIONC), Dr. Daniel G. Baden, Director