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Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

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Andy Beshear
Old Capitol Annex
300 West Broadway
Frankfort, KY 40601
Jeff Noel
For Immediate Release
Brandon Mattingly

Gov. Beshear: Nearly $500,000 in Grants Awarded to 4 Kentucky Companies To Support Continued Tech Growth, High-Wage Jobs

SBIR-STTR program helps support technology development in the commonwealth

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 8, 2024) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that four innovative Kentucky companies will receive $449,819 in state matching grants to support high-paying jobs and further grow the state’s technology sector.

The $449,819 in grants are part of the commonwealth’s nationally recognized Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Matching Funds Program. The funds will match, in part, $1.9 million in federal grants the businesses will collectively receive.

“The SBIR-STTR Matching Funds Program allows the commonwealth to continue fostering innovation and growth for our startups and tech industry,” said Gov. Beshear.  “These companies are tackling the issues of tomorrow, today, and finding unique ways to make the world we live in a better place. Kentucky is home to a great ecosystem of startup companies that are creating well-paying jobs, and I am excited to see everything that these companies achieve here in the commonwealth.”

Monique Quarterman, executive director of KY Innovation, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is encouraged by the SBIR-STTR program and what it can bring to companies in the commonwealth.

“These matching funds awardees are wonderful examples of the kinds of cutting-edge technologies supported by the federal SBIR/STTR program,” said Quarterman. “SBIR/STTR is referred to as ‘America’s Seed Fund’ for good reason, providing vital capital for some of Kentucky’s most innovative, research-based technologies addressing some of the most important issues of our time. Kentucky’s matching funds allow more of those seedlings to take root and flourish in Kentucky. We congratulate the awardees, especially in what was an exceptionally competitive round.”

The four Kentucky-based businesses awarded matching funds are using technology to advance multiple fields, from Alzheimer’s disease care and biopesticides to motor technology.

BlackBox Energy Systems LLC (Owingsville):BlackBox Energy Systems is developing NEMo (Nautical Electric Motor), a more efficient motor for an underwater training target. BlackBox’s patented motor technology is more efficient across a wider range of power levels than traditional motors. It’s also smaller, weighs less and uses up to 80% less copper to create the same level of power.

Covert Defenses LLC (Lexington):Covert Defenses’ latest project, Covert Cognizance (C2), focuses on the resilient and unimpeded operation of energy systems in the face of cyberthreats. C2 ensures that cyberthreats compromising business networks do not have a physical impact on the process and is well-suited for critical infrastructure that continues to provide life-critical services to millions of Americans.

Lepidext Inc. (Lexington):Lepidext is developing a revolutionary biopesticide for the reduction of the harmful pest corn earworm. The pesticide sterilizes the moth and causes a reduction in pest population.  Lepidext’s latest project is to develop fast and inexpensive field-ready detection to assess the sterilizing pesticide in corn earworm moths.

Ralph VR Inc., dba VRTogether (Lexington):VRTogether is developing a digital therapeutic virtual reality tool to delay the onset and halt the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias by empowering older adults to maintain social engagement, cognition and physical activity in fun and engaging activities from the comfort of their own home.

Kentucky’s SBIR/STTR program provides critical nondilutive capital for promising early stage tech companies by matching all or part of federal SBIR/STTR awards received by Kentucky-based businesses or companies committed to relocating to the state.

“We are proud to be selected and grateful to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development for this program,” said Dr. Elijah Jensen, CEO and co-founder of BlackBox Energy Systems LLC. “Innovation requires money, and having nondilutive funding, such as the Kentucky matching award, matters. These funds will allow us to hire the additional researchers and engineers we need to move this technology from the lab to production faster and to provide great opportunities to smart young engineers who need good job opportunities to stay in Eastern Kentucky.”

To date, Kentucky SBIR/STTR-awarded companies have leveraged the state’s matching program to receive $4.57 in federal or private capital for every $1 in state funds. These businesses also have created more than 737 well-paying jobs, 89% of which have annual salaries over $50,000. Match recipients have 235 patents and generated more than $57.60 million in sales and licensing revenue. Kentucky has made 324 match awards to 151 unique companies since the program’s inception, leveraging $157.4 million in federal funding coming into the state.

More information on Kentucky’s SBIR/STTR Matching Funds Program and awarded companies awarded is available at

The SBIR/STTR-awarded companies builds on builds on the best four-year period for economic growth in state history.

Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Beshear has announced more than 1,000 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling over $30 billion in announced investments, creating more than 51,800 jobs. This is the highest investment figure secured during the tenure of any governor in the commonwealth’s history.

The robust job creation has been accompanied by rising wages across the commonwealth. The average incentivized hourly wage in 2022 and 2023 topped $26 in consecutive years for the first time.

Gov. Beshear has announced some of the largest economic development projects in state history, which have solidified Kentucky as the electric vehicle battery production capital of the United States: Ford Motor Co. and SK On’s transformative $5.8 billion, 5,000-job BlueOval SK Battery Park in Hardin County; AESC’s $2 billion, 2,000-job gigafactory project in Warren County; Toyota’s $1.3 billion investment in Scott County; and INFAC North America’s $53 million investment in Taylor County, among others.

The Governor’s administration also secured the largest General Fund budget surplus and Rainy Day Fund, as well as the most jobs filled in state history. Last year, Kentucky set the record for the longest period with the lowest unemployment rates in state history.

Kentucky also secured rating increases from major credit rating agencies Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings, and Moody’s Investors Service upgraded Kentucky’s credit outlook from stable to positive.

Site Selection magazine placed Kentucky first in the South Central region and top 5 nationally in its 2023 Prosperity Cup ranking, which recognizes state-level economic development agencies for their success in landing capital investment projects.

Gov. Beshear announced a “Supply Kentucky” initiative with the goal of boosting job growth, reducing costs and providing more security in the supply chains of our Kentucky companies.


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