The University of Arizona has launched an initiative to help small tech startups win critical federal research funding in an effort to boost the region’s economic competitiveness.

Led by the UA’s Tech Launch Arizona technology-commercialization arm, the SBIR/STTR Competitiveness Initiative will help new and small companies identify and pursue grant funding through the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs.

Both programs provide much-needed capital for the development of key technologies, and Arizona’s performance has been middling relative to other states when it comes to SBIR/STTR funding, Tech Launch Arizona said in a news release.

Under the new program, the UA has set a goal to become one of the top 10 regions for per-capita Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer in the nation.

“This type of initiative fits perfectly with the land-grant mission of the UA, cultivating businesses that are creating an economic and social impact for Tucson and the state of Arizona,” Sherry Hoskinson, director of Tech Launch Arizona’s Wheelhouse commercialization operation, said in prepared remarks.

A host of Tucson-area companies, including many UA technology spinoffs, have benefited from SBIR and STTR awards over the years.

The SBIR program, launched in 1982, provides federal grants generally up to $150,000 initially and up to $1 million in a second phase to help companies develop and commercialize technologies.

The STTR program encourages collaboration between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions, such as the UA, through the development of innovative technologies. STTR awards generally top out at $100,000 initially and $750,000 for second-phase awards.

Tech Launch Arizona already is working with some local companies to win grants.

For example, the agency said it is helping Avery Therapeutics, a local startup developing a new therapy to treat heart failure, on an STTR proposal for funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Contact Assistant Business Editor David Wichner at or 573-4181.