Courtesy of The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – A last-minute reauthorization of the $2.5 billion federal Small Business Innovation Research program means the difference to companies like XploSafe between dying in their concept phase or being able to grow and add several highly trained employees, Shaikh Shoaib said.
The Stillwater-based company was created in 2009 to commercialize the detection of peroxide, chlorate and nitro-based explosives through a variety of explosive sensors. The company has been focused on technology initially developed with funding from the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism at the Oklahoma State University and licensing its nanometric ink technology.
Shoaib, who is co-founder and CEO, said the company began with a single employee; by the first quarter of 2012, XploSafe will likely employ up to nine good, high-paying, science jobs.
He credited that growth to SBIR-backed assistance from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. OCAST is one of the participants in the Oklahoma SBIR Collaborative Project, which also includes i2E Inc., the Oklahoma Bioscience Association, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Oklahoma EPSCoR.
Without help from OCAST and SBIR, the company would likely have not landed several of its ongoing contracts, Shoaib said.
“The SBIR knows that it’s small businesses that drive much of the economy in the United States,” he said. “We’ve been watching these reauthorization efforts very closely.”
I2E Venture Adviser Rick Rainey agreed that an announcement by the House Small Business and House Science, Space and Technology committees in Washington, D.C., this week was a victory for Oklahoma small businesses working through research and development. The collaborative, which Rainey manages, provides assistance to its small business clients in identifying federal funding opportunities and negotiating the complicated application process.
The SBIR program was set to expire on Dec. 16, and with it, most federal funding opportunities for those clients, he said. That funding has been reauthorized for six more years, pending final passage by Congress, which looks to be the case, Rainey said.
Steven Martinez at OCAST said Oklahoma has underperformed compared with other states in terms of winning federal award money in the competitive application process.
“That’s one of the reasons that Rick and I have decided to provide more resources to help companies navigate this funding program, so that we can improve the quality and quantity of our applications from Oklahoma,” Martinez said.