Okla., Kansas UAS cluster receives $500k from US SBA

By Luke Geiver | October 22, 2015

The U.S. Small Business Administration has awarded $500,000 to the unmanned aircraft systems sector in Oklahoma and southern Kansas. The award was granted through a cluster initiative that allows industry-specific clusters from around the country to apply for SBA funding. Development Capital Networks, a tech transfer, investment manager and regional economic developer, will manage the funds along with the help of the Oklahoma UAS Council, a state appointed group of regional aerospace and business experts.

Steven McKeever, Oklahoma secretary of science and technology and chair of the Oklahoma UAS council, called the funding award a tribute to the region’s emerging UAS industry.

Vince Howie, aerospace and defense director for Oklahoma’s Department of Commerce, said the award should be used to bring more technology, capital and entrepreneurs to the region to accelerate the UAS industry.

Oklahoma and Kansas each have several universities and research institutions, including Oklahoma State University and Kansas State University-Salina, heavily linked to UAS developments ranging from weather and agriculture research to defense systems testing.

“We are at the early stages of a large global industry,” said Robert Heard, manager director of Development Capital Networks. “This SBA contract provides great opportunities to do more, to expand our collaborations and widen our vision.”

The proposal to the SBA included 18 measurable goals which will help dictate where the funding could be spent. The goals include: attracting technologies from federal labs and universities; supporting a variety of national, regional and local events, mentoring accelerator services; working with existing industry-related organizations; cataloging and developing resource guides, and, attracting venture capital and angel investors and connecting them with entrepreneurs.

The cluster initiative also include Cowboy Technologies Inc., the South Kansas Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership and the Choctaw Nation Promise Zone.