The SBIR Program
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.
SBIR Mission and Program Goals
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’s goals are four-fold:
- Stimulate technological innovation.
- Meet Federal research and development needs.
- Foster and encourage participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by women and socially or economically disadvantaged persons.
- Increase private-sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal research and development funding.
SBIR Participating Agencies
Each year, Federal agencies with extramural research and development (R&D) budgets that exceed $100 million are required to allocate 3.2 percent (FY 2017) of their R&D budget to these programs. Currently, eleven Federal agencies participate in the SBIR program:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce - National Institute of Standards and Technology
- Department of Commerce - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- 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
Each agency administers its own individual program within guidelines established by Congress. These agencies designate R&D topics in their solicitations and accept proposals from small businesses. Awards are made on a competitive basis after proposal evaluation.
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/R&D efforts and to determine the quality of performance of the small business awardee organization prior to providing further Federal support in Phase II. SBIR Phase I awards normally do not exceed $150,000 total costs for 6 months.
Phase II. The objective of Phase II is to continue the R/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 $1,000,000 total costs for 2 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/R&D activities. The SBIR program does not fund Phase III. 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.
Dollar Amount of Awards Adjusted for Inflation
The SBIR/STTR Statute (15 U.S.C. §638) establishes a cap for the maximum dollar amount of SBIR and STTR awards, above which an agency must request a SBA-approved waiver. SBA shall adjust the maximum dollar amount every year for inflation. The adjusted cap is effective for all solicitations and corresponding topics issued on or after the date of the adjustment. Agencies may amend their solicitation and other program literature accordingly. Agencies have the discretion to issue awards for less than maximum dollar amount. For more information regarding a specific agency’s award guidelines, please visit their solicitation and website. Agencies may exceed this cap for a specific topic with approval from SBA prior to the release of the solicitation, award, or modification to the award for a topic issued on or after the date of adjustment.
As of November, 2019, agencies may issue a Phase I award (including modifications) up to $256,580 and a Phase II award (including modifications) up to $1,710,531 without seeking SBA approval. Any award above those levels will require a waiver. Agencies considering this authority should review §7(i)(5) for additional information.
Competitive Opportunity for Small Business
SBIR targets the entrepreneurial sector because that is where most innovation and innovators thrive. However, the risk and expense of conducting serious R&D efforts are often beyond the means of many small businesses. By reserving a specific percentage of federal R&D funds for small businesses, SBIR protects the small business and enables it to compete on the same level as larger businesses. SBIR funds the critical startup and development stages and it encourages the commercialization of the technology, product, or service, which, in turn, stimulates the U.S. economy. Since its enactment in 1982, the SBIR program has helped thousands of small businesses to compete for federal R&D awards. Their contributions have enhanced the nation's defense, protected our environment, advanced health care, and improved our ability to manage information and manipulate data.
SBIR Policy Directive
Note: SBA finalized an updated Policy Directive on May 2, 2019. SBA combined the SBIR and STTR Policy Directives into a single guidance document. Please see the preamble for a summary of the changes and comments from the review process.
Prior 2014 Version of the Policy Directive:
SBIR/STTR Inter-agency Policy Committee: Fueling Small Business Innovation 5 Reports
- Outreach - IPC Report
- Commercialization - IPC Report
- Award Size Flexibility - IPC Report
- Technet Public & Government Databases - IPC Report
- Standard Evaluation Framework - IPC Report
Letters to Committee on Science, Space and Technology - U.S. House of Representatives
Letters to Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship - United States Senate
Letters to Committee on Small Business - U.S. House of Representatives
- Letter to Nydia Velazquez
- Letter to Sam Graves