How can I get government funding?

Jan. 1, 2004
Q: My academic research focuses on developing optical fabrication processes. Do you have any advice on getting government funding?
1304qa Chang New 60abf00a96b3b

Q: My academic research focuses on developing optical fabrication processes. Do you have any advice on getting government funding?

A: It is great that you and your colleagues are working on process development. This is an important area that is all too often neglected to the detriment of our industry.

Government agencies fund basic research and also development projects related to future products they need. It is probably difficult to get sponsorship of funding for development of processes that are interesting but do not have specific applications. That means you can get funding if your work is research in nature, for example, relating to materials science aspects of the process. But if your project is more on the development side, you are likely to gain traction only by partnering with a contractor going after a specific developmental program.

You may also look toward the private sector for sponsorship since it is likely that industry will encounter process issues. This is akin to consulting work. Having ties with industry will make your work more relevant to real needs and also could help your students become more employable in this very tough job market. A word of caution is that you would need a broad client base to have sustainable continuous funding. That is, you don't want to depend on one or two companies and find yourself stuck as business fluctuates.

Q: How do I prepare for and expose myself to entrepreneurial opportunities as I move up as a company manager?

A: Professional managerial skills prepare you well for entrepreneurial opportunities; starting a business requires a good idea and also experienced managers to execute. But unless you are aware of the differences between established and start-up companies and are prepared to approach your job with a different paradigm, what makes you successful now could become detrimental in a different setting.

Here are a few quick "gotchas" that come to mind for you to look out for:

In an established company, getting a job done is more visible than how it got done. Start-up companies are much more resource limited, being enterprising in getting the job done could make a difference between success and failure. You can sharpen your enterprising skills by approaching your work as if you were working for yourself.

The relationships that help you get your work done effectively and the clout you have are often due to the structure of the company you work for and your position in it; they do not necessarily transfer with you to a struggling start-up company. Building personal relationships within your network would make these resources available when you are on your own.

You will have to roll up your sleeves and be more hands-on in a start-up environment because the infrastructure to support you is relatively incomplete. You may find yourself bogged down by simple tasks you have taken for granted.

The legal and corporate issues small companies face are not dissimilar to what happens in the board room of an established company. Perhaps the most subtle missing piece is the experience to make choices when the issues are complex. Even though you make important decisions now in an established company, there are procedures in place to help you make choices and come to decisions systematically. In a start-up company, decisions have to be made quickly, often by the seat of the pants without complete information. This situation can be very uncomfortable, resulting in no decision being made. And, of course, it is very uncomfortable to leave a stable well-paying job. You can overcome that by recognizing that there can be no growth without change.

To come up with product ideas, you have to be motivated to be constantly on the look out. You want to stay close to customers and be aware of what is going on in the environment. Being intimately familiar with a given industry can enable you to see nuances of the needs other people miss.

About the Author

Milton Chang

MILTON CHANG of Incubic Management was president of Newport and New Focus. He is currently director of mBio Diagnostics and Aurrion; a trustee of Caltech; a member of the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies; and serves on advisory boards and mentors entrepreneurs. Chang is a Fellow of IEEE, OSA, and LIA. Direct your business, management, and career questions to him at [email protected], and check out his book Toward Entrepreneurship at www.miltonchang.com.

Sponsored Recommendations

Optical Power Meters for Diverse Applications

April 30, 2024
Bench-top single channel to multichannel power meters, Santec has the power measurement platforms to meet your requirements.

Request a quote: Micro 3D Printed Part or microArch micro-precision 3D printers

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a Micro 3D Printed Benchmark Part: Send us your file.

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!