DOE is Set to Improve its SBIR and STTR Programs

Guest Author: Natalie Tham, Bipartisan Policy Center | September 20, 2023

Natalie Tham serves as a Policy Analyst for the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Energy Program. She previously served in the Biden Administration at a number of Department of Energy offices including ARPA-E, the Office of Science, and the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

In July, the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs announced some exciting new changes that align with the Bipartisan Policy Center’s recommendations to help this important program achieve its full potential. These recommendations were driven by BPC’s American Energy Innovators Network (AEIN) – a network of clean energy startups, incubators, and investors. AEIN serves as an entry point for policy ideas, political engagement, and strategic relationship building for innovative early-stage energy entrepreneurs, startups, and investors.

These new changes to DOE’s SBIR/STTR program are summarized below:

Support for underrepresented entrepreneurs: Building off BPC’s recommendation to bolster support for underrepresented entrepreneurs, applicants to DOE’s SBIR/STTR will need to explain how their projects promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, including plans to recruit people from diverse backgrounds and offer training to underrepresented communities.

Pitch perfect: BPC heard a lot about the need to simplify the application process for DOE’s SBIR program, like allowing applicants to submit a pitch instead of a full written application. In line with this recommendation, the DOE SBIR/STTR program has launched the virtual Partner Pitch Program (vP3)to give small business awardees exposure to strategic partners and investors, including coaching and pitch feedback.

Crossing the valley of death: BPC called for better commercialization assistance to help SBIR awardees improve their likelihood of success. DOE announced a pilot program to connect companies with resources to generate revenue, scale their manufacturing operations, and more. DOE also announced a workshop serieswith topics like pitch preparation, advice from industry, and lessons learned from successful companies.

BPC appreciates seeing the Department of Energy making these important and innovative changes to broaden participation in programs for clean energy startups. Access the full report on Reforming the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research Programsfor a deeper dive on how DOE can better support small businesses engaged in energy-related innovation and technology transfer.

Learn more about BPC’s Energy Program and the American Energy Innovators Network (AEIN).


CEBN has worked alonside the AEIN and other partners to advocate for these and other reforms to strengthen the accessibility of the SBIR/STTR program for small businesses and particularly, underrepresented founders. To learn more, see CEBN President Lynn’s Abramson’s testimony before Congress in 2021 and 2019, this business sign-on letter on SBIR reforms (2021), and this letter on R&D policy recommendations (2020).