HSC’s SBIR Phase 0 program guides local company to grant money

LexkeenAfter leaving his job as technical director for U.S. Cyber Command, Lex Keen found himself at the intersection of innovative technology, geopolitics and big business. His Tarrant County-based company, SecureFoundry, entered the microchip manufacturing business just before the U.S. government took drastic steps to boost domestic production of semiconductors.

Despite having possession of a much-needed asset, he and his wife, Nicole, who also is the company’s COO, experienced difficulty gaining traction with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies that award contracts.

Thanks to a helping hand from HSC Next, The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth’s innovation wing, SecureFoundry recently was awarded a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant, known as an SBIR grant. These federal, nondilutive grants provide seed money to small businesses to help spur innovation. SecureFoundry previously applied for grants but was unsuccessful.

“Having the HSC Next team’s support was instrumental in making sure that the submission was well written, well formatted and everything aligned with government expectations to create a successful proposal,” Lex said.

In December, HSC received a $2 million grant from Tarrant County that supported the creation of the HSC Next SBIR Phase 0 Program, which provides guidance for Tarrant County small businesses in every step of applying for “America’s Seed Fund.” The program works in phases and can potentially award a single company up to $2 million to research and develop its product.

“When we reviewed the innovative technology that SecureFoundry was developing, we knew that it was an ideal fit for SBIR funding,” said Dr. Adrian Denvir, director of SBIR programming. “After talking with Lex and discussing how SecureFoundry previously wasn’t selected for an SBIR, we knew we could make an impact and change this.”

In 2020, SecureFoundry acquired microchip manufacturing technology from a Dutch company. The manufacturing system SecureFoundry brought stateside is geared toward advanced low-volume microchip production. The tech promises to fill a niche for businesses looking to test prototypes, commercialize new technology, and develop tech for space and defense purposes.

Nicole said the significance of the SBIR grant is twofold: The federal government has now acknowledged that SecureFoundry’s technology fills a void within the semiconductor industry, and the grant establishes a contract vehicle between her company and the government.

“Specifically, what this award enables us to do is to prove we have domesticated the technology,” she said. “The award concludes with demonstrating a production run of chips, which signals we have successfully incorporated knowledge, expertise and equipment. We are really excited about the opportunity to bring this to Texas.”

In February, SecureFoundry was one of nine businesses Denvir and his staff selected to participate in HSC’s program. Cohort companies receive training over a month and continue to work with HSC Next staffers and consultants until their proposal is successfully submitted. Denvir said his team helps companies register with essential government agencies, understand funding agency philosophies, establish research objectives, and prepare a commercialization strategy and a realistic research budget.

“This award validates the training that we are offering to Tarrant County small businesses,” Denvir said. “We look forward to helping additional innovative companies win SBIR awards.”

Recent News

Screenshot 2024 06 20 At 3.45.01 pm
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

From sacrifice to success: a journey through physical therapy school

Ancelmo Mojarro came to Fort Worth to study. The Tyler native knew he wanted to be a physical therapist early on his undergraduate days. He embarked on his path to physical therapy a decade ago, inspired by a friend's suggestion amidst his quest to find his calling in the medical field. “I starte...
Garciarosanski
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

HSC pro bono physical therapy program offers hope

For 70-year-old Beverly Rozanski, the journey to improved health has been long and challenging. Raised in Michigan, Rozanski spent her childhood and early adult years struggling with physical challenges that made even the simplest tasks seem insurmountable. However, her discovery of a pro bono p...
Mills John
  • Our People
|Jun 20, 2024

Team of HSC experts develops national position statement for NCCHC on care for aging patients in correctional facilities

Addressing an overlooked and sometimes neglected patient population, a group of experts from The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth partnered with the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to write a “Care for Aging Patients in the Correctional Setting” posit...
Jennifer Fix 2 Purple
  • Education
|Jun 18, 2024

Pharmacy technician shortage driving force behind new, online prep course

A self-paced, online Pharmacy Technician Preparation Course is now being offered through The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth as a way to help combat the shortage of pharmacy technicians at hospitals, health systems and retail pharmacies. Recognized by the Pharmacy Tech...