First Flight wins the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program for second year!



SBA’s FAST Award will enable the RTP science and technology incubator to increase the number of successful SBIR/STTR grants and expand its LiftOff Program to support more North Carolina life sciences entrepreneurs from diverse and under-represented groups

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – August 28, 2019 – First Flight Venture Center (First Flight), a Research Triangle Park-based science and technology incubator for North Carolina entrepreneurs, has been awarded a $125,000 grant by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program. First Flight, for the second year in a row, is one of just 24 recipient organizations recognized nationwide that provide support to science-focused entrepreneurs developing innovative and disruptive technologies. Winning the FAST grant specifically recognized First Flight’s ability to deepen grant-readiness support to early stage companies to develop competitive SBIR/STTR proposals and to expand its successful LiftOff grant writing program to include under-represented science-focused companies across North Carolina.

The SBA’s FAST program is designed to stimulate economic development by providing training, financial support, and business expertise to technology-focused small businesses, with an emphasis on helping women-owned, rural- based, and socially/economically disadvantaged firms to participate in SBA development programs, such as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) initiatives.

“Receiving this FAST award for the second year enables First Flight to expand in-depth support to early stage companies to create competitive SBIR/STTR proposals. New this year will be a 2019/2020 FAST Cohort of up to thirty (30) entrepreneurs from under-represented groups, including women, minorities and rural-based companies. The one-on-one strategic coaching and mentoring will better prepare them to submit and win SBIR/STTR grants" explained Andrew Schwab, President of First Flight. “First Flight is thrilled to again partner with the U.S Small Business Administration to represent North Carolina to deliver the FAST program.”

First Flight’s FAST award implementation includes the selection of six (6) companies to join First Flight’s LiftOff Program. In partnership with professional scientific consulting firm, Eva Garland Consulting, LiftOff is an innovative “financial force multiplier” designed to assist science-focused entrepreneurs in obtaining early non-dilutive funding for their start-ups, funding that will not reduce a company’s ownership share. After an initial vetting process, participating companies are guided through the grant development and application process. Participation in LiftOff has been shown to exponentially increase entrepreneurs’ chances to obtain early-stage funding, allowing them to remain self- sustaining during their start-up phase, before later seeking angel investors or venture capital funds.

In addition, the 2019/2020 FAST Cohort selection will yield a group of promising science-focused companies who will benefit from concentrated guidance, support and evaluation. Cohort members will attend a grant-readiness “Boot Camp” and then receive up to four (4) months of one-on-one consultation with expert grant-writer scientific consultants at Eva Garland Consulting to prepare them to submit a competitive SBIR/STTR grant.

“The Eva Garland Consulting team is very excited to expand upon the 2018/2019 FAST program to provide

SBIR/STTR grant proposal strategy and support to underrepresented groups throughout the State of North Carolina,”

said Eva Garland, Ph.D., CEO of Eva Garland Consulting. “Access to SBIR/STTR funding is critical to spurring new

innovation, as it provides nearly $100M in early stage capital to North Carolina entrepreneurs each year.”

“FAST partners support an important role in attempting to fill various gaps that R&D-focused small businesses may

have to help them win SBIR/STTR awards,” said Acting Administrator of the SBA, Christopher Pilkerton. “They focus

on the needs of next-generation high-tech firms and support them through the entire cycle from ideation to

commercialization. SBIR funding is one way to do that. Additionally, a number of these awards are going to partners

that are located in Opportunity Zones where job creation and investments are moving forward to revitalize


Proposals for the FAST awards were limited to one per state or U.S. territory, based on the endorsement of each governor. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper made the recommendation for First Flight’s application and as reported by the SBA, the field of applicants was highly competitive.

“We applaud the efforts of the First Flight LiftOff Program and offer congratulations for the award of the SBA FAST

grant,” said Michael Cunningham, Chair of the NC Board of Science, Technology & Innovation. “This program

and economically disadvantaged companies. It will directly complement the state’s longstanding One NC Small

rural-based, socially

Business Program, which has been actively driving for greater geographic distribution of federal small-business

technology grants across underrepresented areas in North Carolina through state matching grants.”

In its 2018 Impact Report, First Flight detailed the positive impact of its programs for North Carolina, including quadrupling of the number of companies participating the LiftOff program since its 2016 inception with non-dilutive funding awards received increasing from $1.3 million in 2016 to $15.5 million YTD in 2019.

First Flight acknowledges the following Partners in the upcoming First Flight 2019/2020 FAST Program:

• Dioko Ventures

Office of Innovation & New Ventures

  • Eva Garland Consulting

  • GeeRomit

  • NC A&T University, Outreach and Economic Development

  • NC Biotechnology Center

Research Compliance and Technology Transfer

  • NC IDEA Foundation

  • NC Rural Center

  • NC State University, Industry Expansion Solutions (IES)

  • NC State University, Office of Research Commercialization

  • The Collider

LaunchUNCG, NC Entrepreneurship Center

  • UNC Wilmington, Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina (MARBIO)

  • WinstonStarts


First Flight Venture Center (First Flight) is a high-science, high-impact science and technology incubator located in the heart of Research Triangle Park. Established in 1991, with a mission to support the development and growth of high-science, high-impact entrepreneurial companies by providing the tailored resources, guidance, connections, and support required for their commercial success. First Flight Venture Center is located at 2 Davis Drive in Research Triangle Park, NC. For more information, visit or view the First Flight video.


The U.S. Small Business Administration empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resource and support they need to start, grow, or expand their businesses by delivering services through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. Through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) division, the SBA administers the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program to provide outreach, technical assistance, and $3M annually in financial support for next generation R&D-focused small businesses.

For more information, contact:

Andrew Schwab, President, First Flight Venture Center 919-789-1383