The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are government-funded programs that award grants to qualified small businesses to support technology research and development.

Information discovered during this research could lead to significant public benefits (the SBIR program) or provide an opportunity for the applicant to partner with a non-profit research institution to transfer existing technology from the research institution to the public (the STTR program).

Many of our clients have benefited from these programs, particularly the SBIR program. In fact, one of our clients recently received a substantial sole source contract that was initiated by an SBIR grant.

As stated on its website, the objectives of the SBIR program are to:

  • Stimulate technological innovations in the private sector;
  • Strengthen the role of small businesses in meeting Federal research and development needs;
  • Increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from government-supported research and development efforts; and
  • Foster and encourage participation by women-owned and socially and economically disadvantaged small business firms in technological innovations.

SBIR grants are provided in three phases:

Phase 1:  Typically firm fixed price contracts under $150,000 and expected to be completed in approximately 8 months or less. The maximum award is $256,580. The goal of Phase 1 is to explore the feasibility of the technology to determine whether it can meet the stated objectives of the study.

To participate, you must be a certified small business as defined by the Small Business Administration (note that most of our clients qualify as a “small” business under their standards). Applicants must self-certify at the time of the award that they meet the definition of a small business. See for more information and the criteria.

Phase 2:  Continues the efforts from Phase I. The business will usually build a prototype of the solution so the government can review the results and determine whether it meets the stated objectives. These awards typically do not exceed $1,000,000 for two years. The maximum award is $1,710,531.

You may also qualify for a “Direct to Phase 2 Award” if you can prove that you have done sufficient R&D on the technology.

Phase 3:  The small business pursues commercialization objectives resulting from the Phase I/II R&D activities. The SBIR program does not fund Phase III. Some Federal agencies may award follow-on non-SBIR funded R&D or production contracts for products, processes, or services intended for use by the U.S. government.  In these cases, it is the company’s responsibility to find a government agency that is interested in the technology and convince them to fund the project.

Participating federal agencies currently include the following:

  • Small Business Administration
  • US Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Transportation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Science Foundation

If you are interested in these programs and think you may qualify, we encourage you to review the programs’ website to determine which may be appropriate for the technologies you’re planning to develop. You may also consider reaching out to the Small Business Administration to assist in the application process.

David E. Shaffer can be reached at Email or 215.441.4600.

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