Spokane’s Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute has $15 million in federal money to help create new or improved products.
What SIRTI needs now are good projects to spend it on.
This summer, the state-funded institute sent out 3,000 requests, asking people around the region to apply for some of the money.
The deadline for ideas closed last week with 51 applications from entrepreneurs, inventors, garage-based software developers and college researchers.
Three review panels made up of people from business and higher education will determine which proposals merit some money.
Grants will range from $10,000 to $100,000 annually, for one or two years.
SIRTI could hand out up to $1.2 million by the end of the year.
Acting SIRTI Director Lyle Anderson says the grants should ignite interest among area companies in finding high-tech ways to make better products, compete effectively and sell goods to more customers.
The goal is building a technology-based economy in this area by creating a web of private companies, government resources and university partners that can quickly turn ideas into products.
Anderson said he and others at SIRTI had no idea how many applications would arrive.
“For our first round, I’d say that’s a great response,” Anderson said.
SIRTI will continue handing out the federal money for another three years. Congress approved the five-year grant, designating the Department of Defense as the review agency.
Washington legislators authorized SIRTI in 1989, but it didn’t move into its building at the Riverpoint Higher Education until last fall.
It took another 10 months - plus a management makeover - before officials could send out the requests and initiate the technology development at the heart of its mission.
The delay was needed to complete agreements between SIRTI and university researchers involved in the projects. SIRTI staff also had to sort out who gets paid and how much if a new product makes money.
About $290,000 of the defense money already has been used to launch several projects, including:
An agile manufacturing center to help companies use electronic networks to simplify and improve new product development.
An allergen extract project with Bayer Pharmaceutical to develop ways to test new drugs.
A mechanical technology initiative that will work on remote-operated robotic equipment.
An audio signal processing system, designed to improve audio transmissions that are weak, damaged or scattered.
A digital media services lab that will develop ways of creating CD-ROM and related digital document delivery.
A moderate-risk waste training program that will help companies better manage industrial waste.
An electronic data interchange program to help firms prepare workers to use less paper in business.
A corporate information and communications program designed to help employees in large companies like Kaiser Aluminum use technology to communicate better.
Those projects and any others getting the defense money have to meet two objectives, Anderson said. “They need to have quick commercial potential and also offer defense-related benefits.”
The majority of the proposals came from Spokane, Pullman and Cheney.
Others came from Richland, Issaquah, Yakima and Ellensburg. A few came from Moscow, Idaho, and one from Phoenix.