When you think of entrepreneurship, innovation and startups – what words first come to mind? I bet it’s not “government,” but in Colorado, maybe it should be on the list.

While some entrepreneurs are critics of the government getting involved in the private sector, many conveniently forget the contributions that grant funding has made to technology development. Many of the products that define our world today were funded early by government R&D money, and much of the basic and applied research in our universities would not be possible in our current environment without grants.


Katie Woslager and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) are good examples of people at the State of Colorado earnestly trying to support entrepreneurs and local corporate growth. Leading an innovative program of grant funding, they’re helping Colorado companies get their R&D or business expansion funded through non-dilutive grants. If you’re an advanced industry entrepreneur here, these programs are definitely worth exploring.


What is it?

There are a few different grant programs available, depending on the size and stage of your company. All require “matching funds” from outside sources, so the company has to be able to impress more than the grant committee. These matching funds may come from research institutions, private investors, or elsewhere, depending on the specific grant. This program also allows accepted companies 6 months to secure the matching funds, which is particularly helpful as non-dilutive funding and state vetted and supported technologies attract outside money.


Who gets it?

Advanced Industries: Advanced manufacturing, aerospace, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources, infrastructure engineering, and information technology.


These industries alone provide nearly 1/3 of wages in the state, so they’re a priority for State research and development funding.


Preference is given to companies that span multiple industries and involve multiple Colorado research institutions, or a combination of industry and institutions, although they aren’t as common. These crossover companies may be eligible for excess funding, but will go through more scrutiny than those applying from only one industry or institution. Each grant may also have additional preference criteria.


How are awards decided?


A committee of non-government experts, often the heads of the appropriate advanced industry associations, run the first stage of screening. The process occurs online, and includes technology, business, and financial experts. The top contenders, who move on, are invited to a 5-minute pitch in front of the full review committee. The final decision is made with the full review committee, which votes on the top ranked applications from each industry during a single day review session.


What are the grants?

Proof of Concept Grant:

  • Target: For Applied Research at Colorado Institutions
  • Size: Limited to $150,000 per award, but can be lifted by meeting any of the additional preferences
  • Matching: 3 (state) to 1 (institution)
  • Additional Preferences:
    • Coming from nonprofit institutions
    • Bridging multiple advanced industries


Early Stage Capital & Retention Grant:

  • Target:
    • HQ, or more than 50% of employees in Colorado
    • Less than $10 million in annual revenue, less than $20 million raised from investors
  • Size: Limited to $250,000, but can be lifted by meeting any of the additional preferences
  • Matching: 1 (state) to 2 (private)
  • Additional Preferences:
    • Participation in an entrepreneurship program, accelerator, etc.
    • Referred by a VC/Angel Investor group that provides a written analysis
    • Bridging multiple advanced industries


Infrastructure funding

  • Size: $500,000, but can be lifted by meeting any of the additional preferences
  • Matching: 1 (state) to 2 (non-state)
  • Additional Preferences:
    • Includes industry stakeholder
    • Originate from nonprofit institutions
    • Facilitating product and workforce development
    • Bridging multiple advanced industries


Advanced Industries Export Grant:

  • Helping Colorado companies expand to new export markets
  • Size: $15,000
  • Matching: 1 (state) to 1 (participant)



Make sure you’re ready and know the criteria for your application well. It’s also a good idea to have information organized for due diligence, since you’ll have to provide that if you move forward in the application process. A list of the types of materials that you might need to provide for diligence can be found here (Angel Capital Association)


Be responsible for yourself and responsive to communication. Be professional – no excuses.


Communicate to your specific audience. Often, smart founders are narrowly focused on the technology they’re developing, and don’t zoom out and put their work in the context of the problem they’re solving. Explain why your product matters to the world, instead of just the technical specifications.


Practice your presentation and speaking skills. Toastmasters is a good resource for that.


The OEDIT website has more information, and you can also email Katie Woslager.


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