Fed agency (National Institute of Standards and Technology) could yield local venture capital

Always on the lookout for funding options for small businesses, John O’Donnell said he nearly
jumped across the table when he met Dick Palmer at a recent conference in Toronto.

By KAYLEY MENDENHALL Chronicle Staff Writer

Palmer represents the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency that
administers the Advanced Technology Program, funding high-risk technology business ideas.

"We’re always looking for other resources because venture capital and research dollars are hard
to get in Montana," O’Donnell, executive director of Tech Ranch, said. "Considering the awards
are up to $2 million each with no matching required, it sounds like a great deal for us."

Sixty-one percent of ATP awards are given to small companies, Palmer said Friday, when he
spoke to entrepreneurs from around the state at Tech Ranch. And, the institute is interested in
funding forward-thinking ideas regardless of their likelihood for success.

"We’re funding high-risk technologies that are leapfrogging ahead of what the current
technology is," he said. "Even if you failed, you increased the data bank in that technology and
someone else can go forward from there."

Many start-up technology companies stumble from the idea stage into the "valley of death"
when they can’t get funding to move forward, Palmer said.

"The purpose of ATP is to accelerate the development of innovative technologies for broad
national benefit through partnerships," Palmer said. "We’re here to help you through the valley
of death."

After meeting with Ligocyte Pharmaceuticals and MPA Technologies on Thursday, Palmer
said there are a few businesses locally that are ready to apply for awards and could receive
funds as early as September or October.

Applications must meet the ATP criteria, but businesses do not compete with each other for
funds and preference is not given to one technology over another.

"We’ve only had four proposals from Montana in 12 years," Palmer said. "The ATP brings
federal research and development dollars back to your state. It brings your tax money back to
where it should go."

Kayley Mendenhall is at [email protected]

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