Rural and Community Development


Contact Mr. Brent Elrod, NPL for SBIR Rural and Community Development at or (202) 445-5456 regarding questions about the topic area or to arrange a telephone consultation.


The objective of this topic area is to improve the quality of life in rural America by creating and commercializing technologies that address important economic and social development issues or challenges in rural America. Projects must explicitly discuss the specific rural problem or opportunity that will be examined and how the proposed technology will successfully address the problem or opportunity. Applications must also include an objective to assess the impacts of the proposed project on the environment or the socio-economic development of rural areas. The applications need not be centered on agriculture, but may be focused on any area that has the potential to provide significant benefit to rural Americans. This topic area supports the NIFA Strategic Plan Goal 1 Science: Catalyze exemplary and relevant research, education and extension programs; SUB-GOAL 1.7: Ensure the development of human capital, communities, and a diverse workforce through research, education, extension and engagement programs in food and agricultural sciences to support a sustainable agriculture system.

FY 2018 Research Priorities:

Examples of appropriate subtopics for research applications from small businesses include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Development of services and information and managerial systems that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Local Governments and Public and Private Institutions

Topics may include educational programs, including apps and gaming, which address the specific needs of people in rural areas (e.g., development of entrepreneurship and workforce skills); use of big data in community development planning; new housing designs; improved health care delivery; appropriate educational, transportation and communication technologies and services; and marketing of new information and technologies.

2. Development of technologies and services that protect or enhance the environment while promoting economic development

Topics may include technologies and services, including proposals to catalyze activities for harnessing big data to synthesize new knowledge, to make predictive decisions, and to foster data-driven innovation in agriculture, ecosystem protection, sustainable practices, food loss and waste reduction, energy conservation, and alternative energy source development – such as wind and solar energy (excluding biofuels).

3. Reducing the vulnerabilities of rural communities from hazards (excluding intentional acts such as terrorism)

Procedures and data-enabled solutions are needed to make rural communities more sustainable to natural or unintentional hazards such as food-borne illnesses, food contamination, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, climate variability, through better preparation, forecast and warning, response and rebuilding phases of hazard mitigation, including communication.

4. Development of technologies and services that specifically address the needs of youth, the elderly, disabled persons, military veterans, and the low-income sector of the rural population Efforts are needed that will enhance human capital development, build earnings capacity, increase labor force participation and/or promote job creation to the most vulnerable populations in rural communities, and promote food security, including issues of access to adequate amounts and quality of foods.

5. Increasing opportunities for employment and income generation in rural communities

Topics may include, but are not limited to, creative place making, recreational economies, rural tourism, agri-tourism, e-commerce innovations that connect producers with markets, and off-farm value-added agricultural development.

Other Key Information

  • The applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the NPL regarding the suitability of research topics.
  • If funded, projects are expected to enhance the environmental and economic vitality of rural communities. Therefore, applications must contain an objective to assess the impacts of the proposed project on the environment or the socio-economic development of rural areas.
  • Applications dealing with on-farm production agriculture research should be submitted to topic area 8.12 Small and Medium Sized Farms.
  • Applications dealing with the development of biofuels and biobased products should be submitted to topic area 8.8 Biofuels and Biobased Products.

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