EDTA Conference: how to land the fat government grants for advanced vehicle research

Sure, the government has spent a heap of money promoting hybrids and hydrogen fuel cells and other green car technologies. But it shouldn't come as a surprise to many that the federal government has a lot more to give away. One of the sessions at last week's EDTA conference was dedicated to find ways to pork out on these funds. Over 100 people came to listen to Kelly Carnes, of Techvision 21, give the skivvy on these grants, and here's what she had to say.
One of the most important sources of funding for advanced drive vehicles is the Department of Defense, Carnes said, "because the dollar amounts are quite large" (EDTA attendees UQM and Saft America have figured this out).

The next big thing the government is ready to roll out the funding red carpet for is nanotechnology, Carnes said. Nanotechnology is all about understanding and controlling matter at dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers, where unique phenomena enable novel applications. The funding for nanotechnology has gone from around $174 million to the billions since the Clinton era, and total U.S. government investment since 2001 is over $5 billion. But you can't just tell the government that you're working on nanotechnology and get a pile of money. Nothing is that easy. Carnes made clear that receiving federal grants is a complicated process, and because these funding opportunities are competitive and merit-based, there are a lot rules to follow. The grants need to be publicly advertised, and EV firms should look over broad agency announcements (BAA) and requests for proposals (RFP) for the notices. For example, in November, the Army put out a BAA in the vehicle technology area for the next five years. Alternatively, companies can try to arrange a Cooperative Research and Development Agreements ( CRADA) with the government.

The rest of this story follows after the jump.
Another way to suck from the public wallet is to garner an earmark. An earmark is when you work directly with a member of Congress to get funding (see below) Carnes said there were about $20 million worth of earmarks in the Department of Energy budget last year, and even though the Republicans are no longer in charge, earmarks will remain available to companies with the right connections. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) said he was going to " earmark the sh** out of" any appropriations subcommittee he gets his hands on. Even with Democratic control of Congress, earmarks are not going anywhere.

Carnes overall message was that Federal funding is not for everyone. If, however, the company's and the government's goals match, and the company is willing and able to comply with government priorities, timelines and regulations, then the payoff can be great. She had plenty of general tips: plan ahead, read authorizations and appropriations reports from Congress, review specific agencies' programs and budgets and review previously funded projects. Attending bidders' conferences and agency program reviews is also prudent. And remember that nothing goes quickly. Plan at least 6-12 months ahead and perhaps work on multiple projects at the same time.

Lastly, Carnes recommended these websites: cfda.gov, gpoaccess.gov, grants.gov, fedgrants.gov, as well as agency websites.

*About earmarks: Google has this definition of earmark in its cache: "To set aside funds for a specific purpose, use, or recipient. Generally speaking, virtually every appropriation is earmarked, and so are certain revenue sources credited to trust funds. In common usage, however, the term is often applied as an epithet for funds set aside for such purposes as research projects, demonstration projects, parks, laboratories, academic grants, and contracts in particular congressional districts or states or for certain specified universities or other organizations." But, when I try to click to the linked site, it leads to a site without the definition on it. Still, that cached definition is pretty good, so I'll use it here.

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