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Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

Explore your technological potential with the incentive to profit from commercialization.

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Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small business 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.

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 business, 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, as part of the Small Business Innovation Development Act, SBIR has helped thousands of small businesses to compete for federal research and development 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 Qualifications

Small businesses must meet certain eligibility criteria to participate in the SBIR program.
  • American-owned and independently operated
  • For-profit
  • Principal researcher employed by business
  • Company size limited to 500 employees

The SBIR System

Each year, eleven federal departments and agencies are required by SBIR to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for award to small business.

  • 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

These agencies designate R&D topics and accept proposals.

SBIR Three Phase Program

Following submission of proposals, agencies make SBIR awards based on small business qualification, degree of innovation, technical merit, and future market potential. Small businesses that receive awards then begin a three-phase program.

  • Phase I is the startup phase. Awards of up to $100,000 for approximately 6 months support exploration of the technical merit or feasibility of an idea or technology.
  • Phase II awards of up to $750,000, for as many as 2 years, expand Phase I results. During this time, the R&D work is performed and the developer evaluates commercialization potential. Only Phase I award winners are considered for Phase II.
  • Phase III is the period during which Phase II innovation moves from the laboratory into the marketplace. No SBIR funds support this phase. The small business must find funding in the private sector or other non-SBIR federal agency funding.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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