If your company is planning to undertake business research, structure it so that the results can benefit other small businesses. By doing so, you can apply to the Small Business Administration for a $5,000 to $500,000 grant under its Economic Research Grants program. Research categories include regulatory and tax burdens, ways to raise capital, and impediments to getting credit.

JACA Corp., a $1.5-million management-consulting and engineering firm in Fort Washington, Pa., was recently awarded $65,000 from the SBA to conduct a credit-discrimination study. JACA routinely evaluates for clients the impact of environmental regulations on industries, and small business in particular.

JACA recently wanted to see if environmental rules were harder on smaller companies than on bigger ones. It consulted the SBA's annual "Research Grant Announcement Bulletin," which noted the SBA's interest in a study on whether big business got federal credit and procurement more easily and frequently than small business, particularly those run by women and minorities.

The firm reasoned that the statistical nature of its project could be dovetailed with the SBA's request, and organized its research so that the findings would apply to a broad mix of businesses. In return for the grant, JACA must supply the SBA with its findings.

We meshed our priorities with those of the SBA's," says Charles Marshall, senior associate for JACA. "It's a case of cross-fertilization."