Conference Helps Companies “Make Stuff, Get Funded”


When people are asked to name the largest industries in Hawaii, the list usually stops after tourism and the military. But manufacturing is in the top five, producing over $4.5 billion in goods in 2014, and employing more than 14,000 people.

Of course, when many people hear the word “manufacturing,” they think of automobile assembly plants and giant factories. But Hawaii’s manufacturers, like most across the country, are small to medium sized businesses. And while the lion’s share of Hawaii’s manufacturing companies produce food products (accounting for more than $1 billion of the total), the state does brisk business in apparel, printing, construction supplies and shipbuilding. And there are hundreds of other companies that do, indeed, assemble equipment and build things in the islands.

“We don’t have large manufacturers here in Hawaii,” noted Sandy Park from the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC) on a recent broadcast of Bytemarks Cafe. “Most of our manufacturers are food manufacturers — jams and jellies, or people like Aloha Shoyu, tofu, the bottling companies bottling waters and sodas — and we even have some that are doing technology manufacturing, small prototying of their hardware.”

Next week, the HTDC is hosting a four-day event in Waikiki to help companies “make stuff and get funded.” The gathering is actually two meetings in one:

  • The Advanced Manufacturing Conference (Oct. 20 & 21): Learn how advanced manufacturing can improve your business. Advanced manufacturing includes 3D printing, advanced materials such as nanomaterials, next generation robotics, the internet of things and advanced sensors, as well as automation of knowledge work or pervasive automation.
  • The Biennial SBIR/STTR Conference (Oct. 22 & 23): Learn how to get funded by the largest federal source of R&D funding for small business. You’ll discover how to acquire funding and commercialize your technological innovations from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

On the advanced manufacturing side, noted speakers include representatives from aircraft manufacturer Boeing, medical equipment maker Seimens, 3-D printing and production firm Stratasys, and aerospace and defense contractor Spatial Integrated Systems.

“Bringing in this expertise is very educational, we want to show the community that these are the possibilities,” Park said. “The experts that we’re bringing in have so much to offer — it’s going to be very very interesting.”

The Wednesday program also includes a panel that turns the spotlight on manufacturers in Hawaii, including R&D firm Oceanit,  medical prosthetic maker Koa Technologies, and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Part two of the joint conference focuses on how manufacturing firms can get funding from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, administered by the Small Business Administration, and the affiliated Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, which supports innovation research and development.

“The SBIR grant program is about $2.2 billion and every federal agency has a pocket of that money, and of course the largest would be the Department of Defense,” Park explained. “For the Hawaii program, we [also] have a matching program.”

Representatives from familiar agencies will take the stage, including the USDA, NOAA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Air Force. The keynote speakers are Tim Bajarin of the research and consulting outfit Creative Strategies on Thursday and Cheryl Zimmerman of sonar tech firm FarSounder on Friday.

Attendees will also hear about state funding options, including a new $2 million grant program to help manufacturers with equipment and training costs as well as energy efficiency projects, and Innovate Hawaii (formerly the Manufacturing Extension Partnership).

Both conferences will be held at the Sheraton Waikiki. Registration for the full four days costs $575, and includes a private VIP reception. A flexible two-day pass is $395. (Neighbor island attendees can register for free with promo code NEIGHBOR.) You can register online, or find more information (including the complete agenda) on the HTDC website.

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