Since 2012, a dedicated program called The Quarry has helped IU-related startups receive millions of dollars in federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants.
The Quarry provides IU researcher-entrepreneurs assistance in preparing applications for Phase I and II small-business grants currently offered by 11 federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. More than $10.1 million has been awarded to IU-connected startups through the program.
Jason Whitney, associate vice president at IU Ventures, said the $10 million milestone — achieved in late 2019 — demonstrates The Quarry’s value.
“The Quarry provides resources in three key areas to eliminate pain points for IU entrepreneurs: identifying potential funding sources, recruiting long-term executive talent and developing the business case,” Whitney said. “The ultimate goal is to ensure that launching a startup is the best path to commercialization for university intellectual property.”
Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of IU Ventures, said The Quarry’s connections to statewide programs have also benefited IU entrepreneurs.
“We have strong ties to Elevate Ventures, an Indianapolis-based venture capital fund/entrepreneurial development center, that provides follow-on funding to IU-connected startups once federal grants are awarded,” Armstrong said. “Since 2012, Elevate Ventures has awarded almost $600,000 in funding to the companies that have been awarded SBIR and STTR grants.”
The Quarry continues to evolve, as it will now be managed by the IU Innovation and Commercialization Office. The IU ICO manages the technology transfer process for university intellectual property, including vetting, applying for patent protection, marketing and licensing. Under the direction of Simran Trana, the university’s first associate vice president of the ICO, the commercialization team is identifying and coordinating campus resources to provide comprehensive support for faculty startups. Amie Frame has taken over duties of grant assistance for the program.
“My job is to help IU entrepreneurs tell a compelling story understandable to a multidisciplinary review panel,” Frame said. “There is a lot of competition, and the success rate for grant applications is small.”
Frame said the process to write a grant proposal begins with a face-to-face meeting with the entrepreneur, conducting laboratory tours and asking follow-up questions to provide her an understanding of the work that will appear throughout the application. Ideally, the timeline begins two months ahead of the grant deadline, which allows time to craft and submit an application to meet strict federal agency requirements.
Even as oversight of The Quarry shifts from IU Ventures to IU ICO, the program is still active. Currently more than $2.8 million in federal SBIR and STTR grant awards is under review.