COVID-19 relief options and additional resources

SBA Awards Second $125,000 Grant to University of Illinois Incubator to Help Underserved Communities Succeed

Award funds training, mentoring and technical assistance for businesses to access specialized resources for innovative research
Release Date: 
Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Illinois –The U.S. Small Business Administration recognized the FAST Center at EnterpriseWorks with another 12-month award to build on its early successes in helping small businesses across the State of Illinois access federal research funding. EnterpriseWorks, the technology incubator at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, received its Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program grant in 2020 – one of 24 awarded at that time, and is among the 33 recipients of the grant this year.

The renewal of the FAST grant will further its work to provide specialized training, mentoring, and technical assistance for research and development-focused small businesses under the FAST program.

“We are proud to support the FAST Center at EnterpriseWorks who has played an integral part in helping small businesses access federal research funding,” said SBA Illinois District Director Robert Steiner. “Support for startups and hubs for technology and business innovation is critical to the recovery of our local economy now more than ever. This partnership will amplify our high-tech small businesses and entrepreneurs from underserved communities.”

Since October 2020, the Illinois FAST Center has served 329 clients, located in 51 different cities representing 22 different counties, and 53% were outside of the Chicago area. Of those who identified, 68% were male and 32% were female; 24% were Asian or Pacific Islander; 14% were Black or African American; 7% were Hispanic or Latino; 50% were white; 5% were other.

“Although only in operation for about nine months, the Illinois FAST Center has worked with more than 300 entrepreneurs and innovators statewide, from Carbondale to Chicago to Peoria and many points in between,” said Laura Frerichs, executive director of the University of Illinois Research Park. “Thanks to our SBIR experts that serve clients with individual counseling as well as substantive workshops and programs, we look forward to seeing an uptick trend in SBIR/STTR awards to Illinois companies as a result.”

The FAST Program seeks to improve outcomes in the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs for underserved communities by increasing participation from women-owned, rural-based, and socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses.

“Congratulations to U of I’s EnterpriseWorks incubator for winning the prestigious FAST grant two years in a row –a testament to the outstanding entrepreneurs and the work our university partners do to facilitate cutting edge developments in tech and science,” said DCEO Acting Director Sylvia Garcia. “Funding opportunities like these are essential as we work to advance research and innovations that can help us combat the pandemic – and will also play an important role in accelerating small business growth and our economic recovery.”  

Since 2003, EnterpriseWorks has helped startups and small businesses receive 471 SBIR/STTR awards totaling $154 million. EnterpriseWorks has also provided SBIR/STTR assistance, workshops, and one-on-one mentoring to tech start-ups throughout the state

Recipients this year cover a wide geographic area and include state and local economic development entities, Small Business Technology Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, incubators, accelerators, colleges, and universities.  All entities will provide support to small businesses developing high-risk technologies.



About FAST

In FY 2021, $4 million total was appropriated as grants for entities to carry out targeted activities from September 30, 2021 through September 29, 2022. Entities from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands are eligible to receive funding to provide outreach, technical, and financial assistance in support of the SBIR/STTR programs. Additional information can be found at



SBA coordinates the SBIR/STTR programs, also known as America’s Seed Fund. In FY 2021, eleven participating federal agencies will provide more than $4 billion in early-stage seed capital through over 7,000 awards to small businesses. Federal agencies announce funding opportunities as either grants or contracts to address their research and development needs. Companies supported by the SBIR/STTR programs often generate some of the most important breakthroughs each year in the U.S.  Additional information about the programs, as well as past and current topics can be found at

About the U.S. Small Business Administration

The U.S. Small Business Administration helps power the American dream of business ownership. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow, or expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit