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Two Chicagoland companies among SBA Tibbetts Awardees Honored at White House Ceremony

Firms recognized for creating jobs, driving innovation through SBIR/STTR programs
Release Date: 
Monday, January 23, 2017

Two Chicagoland companies -- QuesTek Innovations LLC of Evanston and Tanvas of Chicago – were among 37 small businesses, five individuals and three supporting organizations presented the U.S. Small Business Administration’s prestigious Tibbetts Award during a White House ceremony earlier this month. Awardees were recognized for their critical roles in research and development and for successfully driving innovation and creating new jobs through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.  

QuesTek Innovations

QuesTek Innovations LLC is an internationally-recognized leader in Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) technologies, which reconfigure the materials development process and accelerate the design and deployment of high performance alloys in demanding applications. New materials can be developed much faster and at lower cost than with traditional trial-and-error methods.

Under SBIR funding, QuesTek designed the chemistry and heat treatment for an ultra-high strength and toughness steel specifically for U.S. Navy performance requirements. This steel, called Ferrium® M54®, has been qualified by the Navy for the arresting gear of the T-45 aircraft platform, and its implementation will save more than $3 million in lifecycle and other costs.

In another SBIR project,  QuesTek designed a high performance steel named Ferrium® C64® for the U.S. Navy that is being qualified by Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky for next generation helicopter transmissions, allowing for longer life, more durability and increases in power density, enabling helicopters to carry more loads.

Both of these steels have received U.S. patents.

“QuesTek would like to thank the SBIR/STTR program and all of the DOE, DOD and other funding agencies, especially the U.S. Navy, which is a visionary in funding research for the development and deployment of new materials,” said Jeff Grabowski, QuesTek’s Manager of Applications Development and Product Commercialization.


Tanvas enables people to feel what they see on any touchscreen, connecting people to the digital world using electrostatics to control friction and create virtual touch.

“It goes without saying that receiving this award is an incredible honor and only boosts our incredible drive to bring the sense of touch to all touchscreen devices,” Tanvas CEO Greg Topel said. “The progress we’ve made, particularly during the early R&D phase which established the foundation for TanvasTouch, is directly attributable to support from the SBIR program. To be recognized among other innovative companies is a testament to the hard work our team has contributed.”

“The science behind TanvasTouch technology could not have come as far as it has without the support of SBIR,” said Dr. Mondher Cherif, Chief Scientist at Tanvas. “TanvasTouch technology can be integrated into existing products and applications to enable a new dimension of touch interaction and is suitable for a range of applications including automotive, consumer electronics, retail, advertising and visual impairment.”

During the Jan. 10 ceremony, Atlantia Offshore Limited of Houston and Illumina of San Diego were inducted into the SBIR Hall of Fame. The Tibbetts Award honors the SBIR/STTR program participants and supporters that have created a significant economic or social impact through the use of SBIR/STTR funding and are considered the best of the best from the thousands of firms that currently participate in the program. The award is named in honor of the late Roland Tibbetts, who was instrumental in developing the SBIR/STTR programs through a career-long dedication to small business entrepreneurship, applied research and technological breakthroughs.

“The SBA is pleased to celebrate and honor the important technological advances pioneered by these small business innovators,” SBA Illinois District Director Robert “Bo” Steiner said. “They are creating jobs and building new industries while helping to address many of the nation’s most pressing challenges.” 

The SBIR/STTR programs represent the nation's largest source of early stage research and development funding for small businesses. The programs are administered by the SBA in collaboration with 11 federal agencies, who collectively supported more than $2.5 billion in federal research and development funding. Additional information about the programs, the upcoming SBIR/STTR national conference and the SBIR Road Tour can be found at

About the Small Business Administration (SBA)

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was created in 1953 and since January 13, 2012, has served as a Cabinet-level agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.  The SBA helps Americans start, build and grow businesses. Through an extensive network of field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations, the SBA delivers its services to people throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.