NASA Invests in Partnerships Between Minority-Serving Institutions, Small Businesses
Diverse teams comprised of individuals with different skill sets, perspectives, and solutions contribute to NASA’s successes. The agency takes various approaches to create an even more equitable and inclusive environment.In 2021, NASA released its first-ever opportunity for Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) to propose for Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research planning grants. Called M-STTR, the initiative aims to foster partnerships between MSIs and small businesses to prepare them to submit technology proposals to NASA’s annual STTR Phase I solicitation.NASA has selected 11 proposals – six from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and five from Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) – to receive M-STTR planning grants.The grants last four months and provide NASA funding up to $50,000 to the universities. The schools will establish partnerships with a small business identified in their proposal well ahead of the Phase I submission period.“Investments in MSIs allow NASA to tap into underutilized innovation and talent,” said Deputy Program Executive Gynelle Steele, who is spearheading the effort for the agency’s STTR program. “We’re hopeful that these planning grants will create the foundational partnerships needed to successfully compete for an STTR award and enhance the potential for long-term collaboration.”A small business must partner with a U.S.-based research institution to apply for funding from the agency’s STTR program. Feedback from past program participants indicated that one of the persistent challenges faced when applying to STTR is the need to both build a partnership and co-create a strong technology proposal so quickly. The M-STTR planning grants intend to address that challenge by cultivating partnerships and enabling the two sides to engage in substantive conversations about shared areas of interest, goals, and long-term outcomes before applying for a Phase I award.