The Small Business Administration has made it easier for small businesses that receive venture funding to participate in a $2-billion-a-year federal grant program to promote innovation.

The Small Business Innovation and Research program had been open only to companies that were majority-owned by individuals who were U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens. That barred many small companies with significant outside investor ownership from participating, says Morrison & Foerster partner Bradley Wine.

Under the new rules that went into effect Jan. 28, the grant funding can now be accessed by companies that are majority-owned by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, or private equity firms.