For Immediate Release: April 7, 2021


U.S. EPA announces nearly $200,000 to Small Northern California Businesses for Developing Environmental Technologies

Awards part of $2.5 million provided by EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program nationwide

SAN FRANCISCO – This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $2,499,229 in awards to 24 U.S. small businesses to develop innovative technologies that help support EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a competitive awards-based program, which funds technological research and development and revitalizes innovation. Two of the SBIR program awardees, Nikira Labs and Verdant Structural Engineers (VSE), are based in northern California. Each company has been awarded nearly $100,000.

“Small businesses are confronting important environmental challenges head on with creativity and ingenuity,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, Deborah Jordan. “I congratulate the small businesses from California and Hawaii who are receiving EPA funding this week. EPA is proud to support their efforts to develop innovative environmental solutions.“

EPA is one of 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR program established by the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982. The small businesses in this week’s announcement are receiving Phase I awards of up to $100,000 for six months for “proof of concept” of their proposed technology. Companies that successfully complete Phase I can then submit a proposal for a Phase II award of up to $400,000 to further develop and commercialize the technology.

Nikira Labs is in Mountain View, California. The company is proposing to develop a sensitive, fast, and highly-selective ethylene oxide analyzer suitable for field-deployment. This analyzer technology has potential for detecting ethylene oxide emissions to reduce health risks in both in the medical sterilization and petrochemical markets.

“This EPA SBIR award will help Nikira Labs develop novel pollutant monitors, which is critical in supporting such high-risk, high-reward technologies that address tomorrow’s health and safety needs,” said Rupal Gupta, Nikira Labs’ CEO and President.

VSE is in Berkeley, California. Their projects include carbon-storing (sequestering) straw-based structural insulated panels (S-SIP) for residential building applications in the U.S. These panels will reduce carbon emissions, toxicity, and end-of-life waste associated with building materials. VSE has extensive experience with environmentally sensitive building materials and methods such as straw bale, rammed earth, cob, adobe, and bamboo.

“Using less to produce our existing building materials has obvious limits in its potential, as an approach to reduce embodied carbon emissions,” said Anthony Dente, PE, LEED AP, VSE. “Storing carbon in our buildings with bio-based insulation systems like straw, is a clear path to a low carbon or negative carbon building future. Verdant Structural Engineers are grateful to the EPA and SBIR grant program for the opportunity to use our knowledge and experience with cutting edge straw building engineering and science to develop a reliable, repeatable, and affordable straw panel system.”

EPA runs a yearly, two-phase process for the SBIR awards. Companies who have received the Phase I award can submit a proposal for a Phase II award of $400,000 to further develop and commercialize the technology. Through this phased approach, EPA can evaluate whether the research idea is feasible; if the firm’s research is high-quality; and if sufficient technical and commercial progress has been made to justify a larger Phase II effort.

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