What we learned from the pool of MTAF 2.5 applicants

Despite these challenging times, we see that Maine entrepreneurs are ready to innovate and grow our state’s economy.

In mid-February, the Maine Technology Institute issued a request for proposals for $2 million in available funding from the Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.5 (MTAF2.5) program. By providing funding to Maine organizations to invest in R&D equipment, infrastructure, and technology upgrades, this program aims to drive innovation and generate economic impact in our state. MTI capped individual funding requests at $500,000 or less.

We originally established a proposal deadline of March 27 but, given the business disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, we extended the deadline out to April 24. Perhaps not surprisingly, there was incredible interest in the program and it ultimately generated 84 proposals seeking, in aggregate, $24,893,567.29. The funding requests ranged anywhere from $1,750 to the $500,000 limit (25 proposals sought the maximum $500,000 amount). A majority of the proposals (44) sought more than $250,000 in MTAF2.5 funding.

Proposals flowed in from all corners of Maine — from Madawaska to Berwick, Eastport to Rangeley. While business entities or entrepreneurs from Cumberland County submitted the most proposals (26), we were excited and encouraged to receive proposals from 15 of Maine’s 16 counties. We also received 6 proposals from out-of-state enterprises interested in establishing a base of operations in Maine.

In addition to the proposals’ geographic diversity, we saw proposals representing all seven targeted technology sectors in which MTI invests its funds. Interestingly, the marine and aquaculture sector submitted the most proposals (33) — almost three times more than the next closest sector. Information technology applicants submitted 12 proposals, advanced materials applicants submitted 11, and the four remaining sectors ranged from five to eight proposals each.

So, what happens now? MTI will begin reviewing and scoring the proposals utilizing a competitive process. MTI begins reviewing and scoring each of these proposals based on how they would best achieve — to the maximum extent and greatest possible economic impact — the program’s stated outcomes. Essentially, they will be evaluated on how the grant funding will help them gain and hold market share, increase revenues, and grow or preserve jobs for Maine people. After reviewing and evaluating the proposals, and soliciting additional diligence materials from finalists, MTI will make funding awards and will require that the state dollars are matched with at least an equivalent amount of federal or private funding. It is our hope that we will be able to make funding announcements before the end of June. So, stay tuned.

Finally, MTI continues to work throughout this period to provide much-needed resources, support and assistance to Maine’s entrepreneurial community. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can offer assistance with your innovative new idea or help to scale your existing innovative enterprise.

Thank you. Please stay healthy and safe during this otherwise challenging time.