The final state budget for 2019-2020 includes increased funding for the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Matching Fund grant program from $1.5 million to $3 million. See below for a statement from Life Science Tennessee executive director Abby Trotter and statements from our partners at Launch Tennessee, AgLaunch Initiative and the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council. 

Statement from Abby Trotter, executive director, Life Science Tennessee

“On behalf of the life science industry and entrepreneurs across the state, we thank members of the General Assembly for increasing funding for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) matching program for the next fiscal year. The SBIR/STTR matching program is a small budget item with a big reward as it incentivizes the best and brightest companies and professionals in Tennessee to build their technologies here. Since the program began in 2016, more than $15 million federal dollars were leveraged by 24 Tennessee startups who received federal awards from Departments of Education, Energy, Health & Human Services, Agriculture and Defense, the National Science Foundation and NASA.

The funding increase from $1.5 million to $3 million will allow us to support more companies who have already been vetted by their peers for success through a very thorough  process. We are grateful to Tennessee policymakers for putting Tennessee on a sustainable path to transform research and development into life-saving drugs and therapies for Tennesseans.”


Additional funding for SBIR/STTR Matching Program will provide much-needed capital for qualified TN-based startups

Nashville, Tenn. – Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN), a public-private partnership that fosters entrepreneurship across the state, applauds the Tennessee General Assembly and Lee Administration for passage of the 2019-2020 budget that includes increased funding for the Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) Matching Fund grant program.

Developed by LaunchTN in partnership with Life Science Tennessee and other entrepreneurship development organizations, the program is a strategic initiative to advance the commercialization of innovations across the state. The SBIR/STTR Matching Fund is now funded at $3 million through the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and administered by LaunchTN.

“The SBIR/STTR Matching Fund is an important resource for Tennessee entrepreneurs who are bringing exciting technologies and research to market,” said Margaret Dolan, President and CEO of LaunchTN. “We are grateful to the Lee Administration and leaders in the General Assembly for recognizing the value of this investment in startups which have already won competitive federal grants and are committed to building companies in Tennessee. We also appreciate our statewide network partners who worked tirelessly alongside our team to advocate for the expansion of this program.”

Federal SBIR and STTR awards are highly competitive and stringently vetted. Tennessee is currently one of 15 states with SBIR matching support, including Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia. Tennessee’s SBIR/STTR Matching Fund program was first signed into law during the 2016 session and funded in the 2017 and 2018 sessions. To date, the SBIR/STTR Matching Program has leveraged $15 million in federal funding.

“This program is very successful in helping Tennessee small businesses hire additional employees, build better technologies and obtain capital to increase growth,” said Rep. Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville). “In 2017, 27 grants were unmatched. Additional funding for this program makes Tennessee more competitive in attracting innovative entrepreneurs to our great state.”

To date, matching funds have been awarded to 24 grantees, including eight led by women, minorities or veterans. The grant winners are geographically diverse, as well, with three from West Tennessee, 11 in Middle Tennessee and 10 in East Tennessee.

“The benefits of the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund are widespread,” said Rep. Patsy Hazlewood (R-Signal Mountain), who is also a member of LaunchTN’s board. “Previous grant winners represent a wide array of small businesses in diverse locations, industries and backgrounds. For example, PreTel in Chattanooga created a pregnancy monitoring system that integrates the reporting of fetal heart rate, maternal heart rate, contraction activity and more to improve health outcomes.”

Companies receiving matching funds are required to be based in Tennessee for at least 24 months and commit to semi-annual reporting to LaunchTN and the State of Tennessee. To learn more, visit:

About Launch Tennessee

Launch Tennessee is a public-private partnership that supports entrepreneurs from ideation to exit and is guided by a vision of making Tennessee the most startup-friendly state in the nation. Partnering with Entrepreneur Centers in six regions, Launch Tennessee creates collaboration among entrepreneurs, the private sector, capital sources, institutions and government to offer entrepreneurs what they need to succeed and stay in Tennessee to build companies and create jobs. Visit to discover what makes Tennessee a great state for startups.


Statement from Pete Nelson, president & executive director, AgLaunch Initiative

“The goal of AgLaunch is to help create innovation-based companies across Tennessee to help our farmers and foresters create more value for their farm operations, strengthen rural industries, create jobs and prepare for future opportunities. With over 67,000 farms and more than 349,000 employees, agriculture and forestry contribute $74.8 billion to Tennessee’s economy each year and provide a great foundation for expansion through innovation. The SBIR/STTR matching program will help stimulate more startup companies to commercialize agricultural technologies, increasing a key competitive advantage for Tennessee agriculture as we make our state the best place to start and grow an AgTech company.”  

Statement from Cortney Piper, executive director, Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council

“The advanced energy industry is a major economic driver for the state, employing 358,000 Tennesseans at more than 18,000 businesses and contributing nearly $40B to our state GDP. Energy entrepreneurs are part of this thriving sector and the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs incentivize these bright business leaders to stay in Tennessee. We applaud the Tennessee General Assembly for increasing funding to match these federal dollars coming into our state. By fostering Tennessee advanced energy, we can lead the nation in developing new energy technologies and become the #1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”