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.
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.
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
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.
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.