Dr. Ragan Callaway
Project Director, Montana EPSCoR
Purpose of Initiative
Montana National Science Foundation (NSF) Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) is a Montana University System program focused on stimulating improvements to Montana’s R&D capacity and competitiveness in science and engineering research. Montana EPSCoR partners with the NSF EPSCoR program to develop and manage strategic projects funded by competitive NSF EPSCoR awards to the state. Montana NSF EPSCoR has “played an important role in enhancing research capacity and competitiveness for Montana, supporting innovative education for development of Montana’s STEM workforce, and linking science outcomes to business opportunities and solutions for pressing issues.
About NSF EPSCoR
EPSCoR uses three main investment strategies to achieve its goal of improving the R&D competitiveness of researchers and institutions within EPSCoR jurisdictions. Their Research Infrastructure Improvement Program is a four-track program that provides funding to companies. Track-1 awards provide up to $4 million per year for up to five years and they are “intended to improve the research competitiveness of jurisdictions by improving their academic research infrastructure in areas of science and engineering supported by the National Science Foundation and critical to the particular jurisdiction’s science and technology initiative or plan.” Track-2 Focused EPSCoR Collaboration awards provide up to $1 million per year for up to four years as collaborative awards between two EPSCoR jurisdictions, or up to $1.5 million per year for up to four years to a consortia of three or more EPSCoR jurisdictions. These awards build inter-jurisdictional teams of EPSCoR investigators in scientific focus areas that are aligned with NSF priorities. Track-3 awards provide up to $750,000 for up to five years to support the goal of broadening participation to improve future R&D competitiveness of EPSCoR jurisdictions. These awards are intended to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields (underrepresented minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and persons in underserved rural areas of the country). EPSCoR supports workshops, outreach initiatives, and the co-funding of research.
Angela Des Jardins
Montana NASA EPSCoR Program
Barnard Hall 264
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
“Montana NASA EPSCoR is part of the national NASA Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) designed to establish partnerships with government, higher education and industry to effect lasting improvements in Montana’s research infrastructure, R&D capacity and hence, its national R&D competitiveness. In addition to the research and technology development, awards enable faculty development and higher education student support. The EPSCoR program is directed at those jurisdictions that have not in the past participated equably in competitive aerospace and aerospace-related research activities. Twenty-eight states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico currently participate. Seven federal agencies conduct EPSCoR programs, including NASA. The goal of EPSCoR is to provide seed funding that will enable jurisdictions to develop an academic research enterprise directed toward long-term, self-sustaining, nationally-competitive capabilities in aerospace and aerospace-related research.”
Areas of Interest
NASA EPSCoR research priorities are defined by the various Mission Directorates (Aeronautics Research, Human Exploration & Operations, Science, and Space Technology), as well as NASA’s 10 Centers. Each Mission Directorate and Center focuses on a major area of the Agency’s research and technology development efforts. Research priorities for each of the Mission Directorates are outlined here.
Program Manager for STEDC & ICED
Program Manager for NACS & ICED
Purpose of Initiative
The Tribal Business Planning Grant (TBPG) of the Indian Country Economic Development (ICED) Program funding is intended to assist tribal governments in deploying comprehensive business planning strategies and activities.
The governing bodies of each of Montana’s eight tribal governments are the only eligible applicants for this portion of the Program. A maximum of $28,000 per governing body per fiscal year will be available in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Eligible uses of grant funds include activities evidenced by tangible deliverables—notably business plan development, market analysis, feasibility studies, physical business infrastructure planning (such as zoning), and legal and financial codification of ordinances benefitting the business.
Once an application has been completed and submitted, the application will be evaluated according to the following criteria: “potential for the project to help applicants make more strategic decisions about the start-up, expansion, or diversification of a tribal enterprise or venture; likelihood that a specified feasibility study is of sufficient magnitude to have a significant economic impact on the future economic development of the reservation; likelihood that the specified planning activity will provide important or relevant guidance for decision making in the development of land, resources, businesses, financial or legal infrastructure; overall quality of the application, including measurable product goals, tasks, and activities, a well-developed work plan and budget, and easily identifiable deliverables; and capability of the applicant to undertake and satisfactorily complete the project and ensure proper management and reporting of program funds.” The Program presents the evaluation of each application to an internal Grant Review Committee. Applicants can notify the Program if they would like to make a brief presentation to the Grant Review Committee. The Committee reviews each application and makes a preliminary funding recommendation to the Director of the Department, who then makes the final funding decision.
“The SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program assists technology-based Montana companies by providing additional funding that can be used for technology development or other uses during the time that the company is working on a Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) project with a federal agency. This additional funding increases the likelihood that technology-based Montana companies will be able to develop products and services that can be successfully marketed.”
Grants of up to $60,000 are available on an annual basis.
“The Montana Board of Research and Commercialization Technology (MBRCT) provides a predictable and stable source of funding for research and commercialization projects in Montana. MBRCT encourages economic development through investment in research projects that have a clear path to commercialization.”
“The Board takes the following criteria into account when making funding decisions: has potential to diversify or add value to a traditional basic industry of the state’s economy; shows promise for enhancing technology-based sectors or commercial development of discoveries; employs or takes advantage of existing research and commercialization strengths; has a realistic and achievable project design; employs an innovative technology; is located in the state; has a qualified research team; has scientific merit based on peer review; and includes research opportunities for students.”
Frontier Angels is a Montana-based investment network of over 100 highly accomplished people from across the state. The organization is based on three key principles: “discover top-tier emerging technology investment opportunities which provide attractive ROIC to members; concentrate the collective experience, capabilities and resources to the group to achieve critical mass on a few key initiatives to accelerate the growth of the tech ecosystem in Montana; and actively promote gender diversity to advance the next generation of female leaders in Montana.”
Frontier Angels generally looks for technology-based companies (software, data and analytics, devices, biotech, life sciences, photonics, agricultural tech, clean tech, and energy) in Montana, the Northern Rockies, and/or the Northwest region at the “Seed” or “A” stages. The organization is sometimes flexible with regard to geography and will occasionally fund a “B” round—but they stick to their preferred technology sectors. Frontier Angels prefers to fund companies with “unique and defensible intellectual property; a tech-leveraged business model; a core of strong management; and evidence of market demand for their product or solution.”
Early Stage Montana is a competition where companies can enter to win up to $50,000 in investment capital, as well as a change to be announced as the winner of Early Stage Montana in front of leading angel and VC investors, mentors, and members of the press. The organization holds three regional showcase competitions—one in Billings (Eastern region), one in Bozeman (Central region), and one in Missoula (Western region).
Entries from each of the three regions are screened by a panel of judges who will select between 8-10 semi-finalists. From each regional competition, two finalists are selected to advance to the Statewide showcase. Finalists will have the opportunity to pitch their business to dozens of investors, mentors, and members of the Montana business community, with the possibility of winning up to $50,000 in investment capital.
Economic Development Director
The Missoula Economic Partnership (MEP) is committed to helping start-up companies secure the capital they need in order to achieve their potential. A central part of this effort is the MEP Angel Network. The MEP Angel Network is a group of local investors who make meaningful capital investments of between $250,000 and $750,000 in early-stage companies with ties to Missoula, Montana.
To be eligible for investment, a company must be in the start-up, early-stage, or stage two phase of development. They must complete the required paperwork for the screening process through the Missoula Economic Partnership. In addition, eligible companies will need to complete the required screening by the MEP Angel Network’s Entrepreneur Committee. Companies that are selected to present must be well prepared for questions from investors and they should be ready to conduct negotiations. The MEP Angel Network schedules company presentations up to two times per year.
Next Frontier Capital partners with mission-driven and talented entrepreneurs to build Montana-based technology companies of national impact, utility, and value. The firm manages about $59 million in assets and the Fund’s portfolio of twelve companies has raised $92 million in total equity capital. Next Frontier Capital is a venture capital firm primarily focused on investing in Montana-based industries with high intellectual property values.
The Fund primarily invests in Montana-based companies with high intellectual property values. Areas of interest include software, healthcare, optics, and photonics. Next Frontier Capital aims to invest in two to three companies per year. The Fund’s due diligence process focuses on the company’s mission, market, management team, product-market fit, technology, and business model.
Next Frontier Capital aims to invest in Montana-based companies, with investments generally ranging from $200,000 to $3,000,000. The Fund is stage agnostic. While the focus is certainly on Montana-based firms, Next Frontier Capital will consider non-Montana investments.
Updated April 2018 by Kristen Johnson