SBIR/STTR Overview

What is the SBIR/STTR Program?

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are competitive federal award programs designed to stimulate technological innovation by small businesses.  Since 1982, more than $27 billion in grants and contracts have been awarded that have helped more than 15,000 firms and resulted in more than 50,000 patents.

The mission of the SBIR program is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of Federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy.

The program has four goals:

  • Stimulate technological innovation
  • Meet Federal research and development needs.
  • Foster and encourage participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by socially and economically disadvantaged persons.
  • Increase private-sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal research and development funding

Following the submission of proposals, agencies offer awards based on a small business’ qualifications, degree of innovation, technical merit and future market potential.

Green Tape’s founder has been trained in SBIR-STTR R&D proposal writing by many of the current thought leaders in this area. Because we also support more traditional Department of Defense RFPs, we understand the difference between federal agencies and small business funding vehicles.

We like to help clients manage the process, because time flies when working on R&D proposals. We also help clients win awards at three to five times the national award rate.

And like a gardener, we cultivate and nurture a seed’s — or idea’s — growth. As such, we choose good seeds, the ones that because of their leading edge nature, are likely to take root and grow.

While we enjoy working with first-time SBIR-STTR seekers, our skill set is best matched with multiple proposal innovators who want to succeed in small business government R&D funding for years to come.

SBIR/STTR Program Information

The SBIR Program is structured in three phases:

Phase I. The objective of Phase I is to establish the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of the proposed R&D efforts and to determine the quality of performance of the small business award winner before providing further federal support in Phase II. SBIR Phase I awards normally do not exceed $150,000 in total costs for six months.

Phase II. The objective of Phase II is to continue the R&D efforts initiated in Phase I. Funding is based on the results achieved in Phase I and the scientific and technical merit and commercial potential of the project proposed in Phase II. Only Phase I awardees are eligible for a Phase II award. SBIR Phase II awards normally do not exceed $1 million in total costs for two years.

Phase III. The objective of Phase III, where appropriate, is for the small business to pursue commercialization objectives resulting from the Phase I/II  R&D activities. The SBIR program does not fund Phase III.  For some federal agencies, Phase III may involve follow-on non-SBIR-funded R&D or production contracts for products, processes or services intended for use by the U.S. Government

Who is eligible?

Small businesses must meet certain eligibility criteria to participate in the SBIR program:

  • American-owned and independently operated
  • For-profit business
  • Principal researcher employed by business
  • Company size limited to 500 employees

In addition, the 2011 Reauthorization of the SBIR/STTR Program allowed small business concerns that are majority owned by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds or private equity firms to participate in the program.

The Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) program strives to stimulate technological innovation through partnerships between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions.

This involvement with nonprofit research institutions is a major difference between SBIR and STTR grants. Businesses must meet the SBIR eligibility criteria listed below to participate in the STTR program, and the nonprofit research institution must also meet certain eligibility criteria:

  • Located in the US
  • Meet one of three definitions:
    • Nonprofit college or university
    • Domestic nonprofit research organization
    • Federally funded research and development center (FFRDC)

The US Small Business Administration plays an important role as the coordinating agency for the SBIR program. It directs the implementation of the SBIR program by the 11 agencies that offer grants, reviews their progress and reports annually to Congress on its operation.

SBA is also the information link to SBIR. The SBA collects solicitation information from all participating agencies and publishes it quarterly in a Pre-Solicitation Announcement (PSA). This PSA is a single source for the topics and anticipated release and closing dates for each agency’s solicitations. All of the SBA’s programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

Participating agencies

Currently, 11 federal agencies solicit SBIR proposals:

  • Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Department of Commerce (DOC): National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of Education (ED)
  • Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF)

There are five agencies that fund STTR proposals:

  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • Department of Energy (DOE)