Government Funding Is Out There. What Are You Waiting For?
The U.S. Government spends billions of dollars annually on manufactured goods, new advanced manufacturing technologies and related activities. Unfortunately, a lot of shops pass up the opportunity to cash in on such funding because they do not think about their products and technologies in terms of what federal and state governments can provide.
For example, a shop that wants to refine its product or process to fit a defense application may not be aware that it could get funding from the Department of Defense for new equipment, such as machine tools. In this instance, new machine tools would fall under eligible funding because they are a part of an overall refinement project.
The same is true for a company manufacturing components or parts used in an automobile or aircraft. Those shops could find research and development funding from the Department of Transportation, or if the shop produces parts for or components of farm equipment, it could go to the Department of Agriculture. Similarly, a shop producing parts and components used in oil-field applications could solicit funding from The Department of Energy.
There are three categories of federal funding and four categories of eligibility. Funding is available in the form of competitive grants, discretionary grants and appropriations (or "earmarks"). The primary eligibility categories are research and development, workforce development, infrastructure, and procurement.
For research and development in advanced manufacturing, there are seven federal departments that provide funding: the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Commerce and Energy. For workforce development, shops could approach the Departments of Labor, Commerce and Education. Infrastructure funding comes from the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture and Transportation, and procurement funding comes from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Energy and Transportation.
The first thing a shop should do is to ensure its project is eligible for funding. It can do that by reviewing information on funded programs available on the Internet sites for the appropriate federal departments. Once it is confident that its project is eligible, a shop representative should visit the local offices of its congressman and senator to provide those offices with an overview of what the shop does and what it wants to accomplish and to explain which federal resources it is looking to take advantage of. By providing this information, the shop representative can solicit its representative's help in setting up meetings with the project leaders for the applicable government departments.
Doing this can be difficult and time-consuming, says John Dick, principal and co-founder of GSP Consulting Corp. GSP Consulting (www.gspconsulting.com) specializes in helping companies to leverage government funding for manufacturing. Firms such as GSP Consulting can shorten the funding process time because they have established relationships with government offices.
While many shops that are eligible for federal funding typically are start-up companies, ideal candidates are also those shops looking to diversify, such as switching from the automotive manufacturing to the aerospace industry.
"When shops want to broaden their prospects beyond their core products or penetrate new markets, that is where consultants can be most helpful," says GSP Consulting's Dick. He also says that funds are not limited to companies or shops that produce final products, but are available for shops that produce pieces parts. In some cases, it is somewhat more difficult to push a final product into Washington than a component, Dick says.
The government is more likely to fund work on an improvement in a specific technology or process or a particular component because it purchases final products from large vendors. Thus, improvements on technologies or products coming from component or part producers ultimately could lower the price for the final product.
Consultant firms do not consider themselves-lobbyists, primarily because-they do not represent the interests of a large group. "Unlike-lobbyists, we focus only on the narrow areas of technology and advanced manufacturing," says Dick. And GSP Consulting counts clients such as Penn United Technology Inc., Lord Corp., and Sunburst Technology among its successes.
| Eligibility categories for funding |
Research and development
Government department websites
U.S. Department of Agriculture (www.usda.gov)
U.S. Department of Commerce (www.commerce.gov)
U.S. Department of Defense (www.defenselink.mil)
U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov)
U.S. Department of Energy (www.energy.gov)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (www.hhs.gov)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (www.dhs.gov)
U.S. Department of Labor (www.dol.gov)
U.S. Department of Transportation (www.dot.gov)