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SBIR and STTR Programs

New for April 2022.

The Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program (they call themselves "America's Seed Fund") is helpful when you want to bootstrap your own microwave company in the United States. The idea here is that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will award contracts to qualified small businesses that are performing cutting-edge research that meets the needs of various government agencies. The SBA also runs a program called Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) to encourage domestic small businesses to collaborate with research institutions to (as they say on their site) "bridge the gap between performance of basic science and commercialization of resulting innovations." In other words, to figure out how to make and sell products based on the research that's happening at universities across the United States. The largest federal agencies (with annual budgets over $100 million) are required to set aside a percentage of that budget specifically for small business R&D support.  As you might expect, that includes all the branches of the Department of Defense, as well as agencies like the Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, NASA, and many others.

There's a searchable database of all the SBIR and STTR awards since 1984 over at https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/award/all.  You can search by date, state, agency, and more to see what kinds of projects have been funded and for how much. Here are just a few companies that have leveraged the SBIR program many, many times:

Maxcentric Technologies LLC 

Nuvotronics Inc. (no longer a small company, now part of Cubic Corporation)

Colorado Engineering Inc (winner of a Tibbetts award!)

There are a few requirements before you can even apply for this type of funding:

  • Your company must be organized for profit, with a place of business located in the United States
  • Your company must be more than 50% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens
  • "Small" means your company can have no more than 500 employees, including affiliates

In addition, if you're looking to partner with a "research institution" for the STTR program, that university must be based in the United States and be one of the following:

  • Nonprofit college or university
  • Domestic nonprofit research organization
  • Federally funded R&D center (FFRDC)

SBIR and STTR funding only go to researchers who are answering questions that the agencies want answered.  How do you find out what questions these are? Each agency has has a specific schedule of when they release their solicitations:

For example, the DOD has three solicitation periods per year: Jan/Feb, May/June, and Sept/Oct.  To see what projects are available for funding at any given time, go to the solicitations search engine at 

https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/topic/current

You can use the filters on the left side of the screen to narrow down the options, or you can type a key word in the search engine at the top of the screen.. This will generally get you to a page that describes the high-level solicitation.  You'll need to click through to the actual solicitation on the specific agency's site.  For example, the DOD Research and Development Enterprise site (https://rt.cto.mil/rtl-small-business-resources/sbir-sttr/) lists the specific requirements for applying to that agency.  And, of course, each agency is going to have it's own particular processes.

Note that all SBIR projects are funded in two phases:

  • Phase I is to fund research that will establish the technical merit or feasibility of an idea.  Awards can be from $50,000 to $250,000 over either 6 months (SBIR) or one year (STTR). 
  • Only companies that have won a Phase I contract can apply for Phase II funding - usually $750,000 over two years - to continue development of Phase I projects that have proven feasible. 

Some projects may have a Phase III, where the company continues to create commercial products from the results of Phases I & II, but Phase III is not funded by either the SBIR or STTR programs. 

 

 

Author : Unknown Editor

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