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Case Studies

Case Studies – Grants


In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the projects that have successfully received Public Funding in recent years. The aim of these examples is to show you the kinds of projects and companies that have received grants at different levels, and what needs the grant was meeting.

Please note that it’s not usually possible to access grant applications due to the confidential nature of much of the information that many grant applications request. Most submissions contain organizational and research information that companies don’t want to put into the public domain.

First, we’ll take a look at two large Federal grant awards, before getting a snapshot of some local projects.

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Research & Commercialization – Prevail Health       

Type of Business / Industry:  Healthcare

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Awarding Body: SBIR (Federal)

Amount(s) awarded: Prevail Health has received three grants from the SBIR, totaling $1.2 Million as of the close of 2018.

Type of need that the business/project addresses: Support for mental health, particularly veterans.

Links:  Prevail Health Website, Prevail Health SBIR

About Prevail Health

Prevail Health is a for-profit company, founded in 2008 by Richard Gengler, who was a Navy F/A-18 Pilot who saw that there was a need to develop better ways for military veterans to access mental health services.

 Since 2008, Prevail Health has developed a digitally based behavioral health treatment that tailors inputs to patients dynamically over the course of service. Their service claims to be as effective as an in-person mental health treatment, but deliverable at a 99% lower cost than traditional mental health care.

The digital program addresses issues such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, post-partum depression, substance abuse, and weight management. Treatment is administered via cognitive behavioral therapy.

The grant was used to develop digital solution technology and help to commercialize the company research into supporting targeted groups who were at risk. A particular focus was given to combat veterans who were not getting access to support from the military health system due to lack of fund and resources.

Grant Success Factors

Prevail Health identified that many Americans struggle to get adequate mental health care via their health insurance. They also identified that demographics such as veterans, adolescents and new parents were at risk of suffering from mental health conditions.

They were able to show that their service filled a need and that they could potentially offer their service at a much cheaper cost than other methods of mental health care. The focus on supporting combat veterans and taking pressure off the military health system appears to be a key factor in their success.

They were able to show that the technology they were researching had commercialization prospects and now offer services to health plans, employers and government agencies. They are also currently partnering with “a large US Payor” to develop a Medicare pilot program.

Their CEO, Richard Gengler, says: “We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the NSF SBIR grant, the resources were critical and the technology wouldn’t exist without it. In addition to the financial resources and opportunities for peer review, our program officer was very proactive during our early efforts to build a product and company and provided excellent mentoring and expertise. Having the backing of NSF was critical to gaining legitimacy and opening other doors.”

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Sustainable Technology, Research & Development: Blue River Technology

Type of Business / Industry:  Agriculture

Location: Sunnyvale, California

Awarding Body: NSF (Federal)

Amount(s) awarded: Received $650,000

Type of need that the business/project addresses: Development of sustainable farming practices using advanced robotics.

Links:  Blue River Technology website

About Blue River Technology

Blue River Technology was founded by two Stanford graduates in 2011. They had a shared interested in robotics and decided to start a project to make farming more sustainable by using robotics, computer vision, and machine learning.

They began with a machine designed to save time and labor by lettuce thinning and went on to develop machines capable of deep learning to identify a variety of plants – crops and weeds and decide what to spray. The machines enable a smarter way for farmers to manage crops by making decisions on how to treat individual plants.

By using a “see and spray” system the machines can spray herbicides only when needed, and thereby reduce the number of herbicides being used. It can also help to prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. Blue River Technology say they can reduce the use of herbicides by 90%.

Grant Success Factors

The team was able to win an initial grant of $650,000 to enable them to hire their first employees and complete research that gave them enough credibility to then go on to becomes acquired by John Deere, one of America’s biggest agricultural companies.

They met a clear need for the Us agriculture industry, as herbicide-resistant weeds are a big problem for food-production. Their sustainable philosophy also made them an attractive option to invest in. They also had a clear way to commercialize their product one research was successfully completed.

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Local Projects & Awards 

Company: Brandmuscle

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Award: Job Creation Incentive Grant

Amount Awarded: $630,000

Project Details

A marketing technology company, Brandmuscle, received a Job Creation Incentive Grant from The Department of Economic Development, to assist them with the costs of relocating their business to Downtown Cleveland. The grant was awarded to help bring more jobs into the area (160) and was used to help offset renovation costs for the use of vacant office space.

In the time since the grant was awarded the company has grown to three locations in Cleveland, Austin, and Chicago and now employ 400 people. This grant has enabled the creation of more jobs in the initial location, and further expansion and contribution to the US economy are the additional locations. 

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Local Thrive Zone Grants – Austin, Texas

The city of Austin designed a program aimed at helping retail businesses to continue to develop by allocating funds for them to improve their commercial buildings. Each grant is worth up to $250,000 and a total of 51 businesses shared $5 million in 2018.

The program is funded using resources from Tax Increment Financing districts and specifically targets commercial corridors in Austin in order to improve the retail experience of visitors and to support small businesses in the area.

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Local Micro-Grant Program Example

Location: Washington DC

Awarding Body: Executive Office of the Mayor

Initiative: Great Streets Small Business Capital Improvement Reimbursement Grants

Date: May 2018

Amount Awarded: $2.6 million

Initiative Details

The Great Streets Small Business Capital Investment Reimbursement Grants is an excellent example of a localized project that supports communities at the local level. Mayor, Muriel Bowser awarded the $2.6 million to 53 small businesses across the eight wards of the area.

The initiative aims to support small businesses in the DC area and help create more jobs and bolster the local economy by growing local neighborhoods. The awards were distributed to small businesses owners across a diverse range of small businesses, from retail to restaurants and fitness spaces.

To date, the Great Streets Program has awarded more than $14 million to 274 small businesses in the area and has created an estimated 1000 jobs as a result of the program.

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