Ann Arbor's tech community taps millions in federal stimulus funds
The federal economic stimulus package is becoming an ATM for Ann Arbor’s technology community.
The $787 billion program, officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is becoming a financial beacon of hope for university researchers and local entrepreneurs.
A sudden flood of stimulus funding to the Ann Arbor region reflects the research talent and engineering strength of the local economy.
For Ann Arbor’s renewable energy community, a specific piece of the stimulus program offers a rare chance at critical funding. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is offering $37 million in funding for small businesses focused on clean tech research and development.
It’s the closest thing to a governmental fire sale as it gets. The program was introduced Aug. 20, and funding applications are due Sept. 4.
Loch McCabe, president of Ann Arbor-based renewable energy consultancy Shepherd Advisors,
said the DOE program offers significant opportunity for alternative
energy startups capable of delivering an effective application on short
notice. Companies typically have at least six to eight weeks to file
The funds will be delivered through DOE’s traditional route - the
Small Business Innovative Research program and Small Business
Technology Transfer programs.
The money is meant to help companies demonstrate the feasibility of an early-stage energy technology concept. DOE aims to fund development of a wide range of energy technologies, including hydro energy, solar, smart grid and energy efficiency.
“It’s terrific news, in general, and especially for communities like Ann Arbor,” McCabe said. “Given the research and the proposal writing strengths in the Ann Arbor area, this is about as close to an R&D blank check as you get. So I would expect that there are dozens of companies and prospective companies that could benefit from this solicitation if they can meet the short time window.”
The stimulus fountain has produced fruitful results for the Ann Arbor region for several months. The University of Michigan, for example, has reaped some $61.1 million in grants from the stimulus package, including $21.1 million from the National Institutes of Health. The university bragged in early August that it was leading all U.S. universities in stimulus grant acquisition.
In July, U-M received $2.5 million for battery workforce training from the stimulus program, and Watertown, Mass.-based A123Systems, which has an Ann Arbor operation, got $249.9 million to accelerate its own battery technology.
Meanwhile, last week the Ypsilanti-based Clean Energy Coalition secured a $15 million grant from the stimulus package to assist various Michigan entities in buying alternative propulsion vehicles and installing clean fueling infrastructure.
Stimulus funding is not a replacement for traditional financing
options. But with the venture capital world struggling and the banking
industry lending conservatively, the stimulus funds are filling an
obvious void for acceleration of critical technologies.