Insight into the 11 Small Business Innovation Research Programs

August 30, 2022 | Annabelle Swift, Associate, CEBN

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding opportunities are offered by 11 different federal agencies. Six of these agencies also administer Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, which require small businesses to collaborate with a research institution. These grants offer equity-free funding for innovating and commercializing new technologies, and some state and local programs will even match federal SBIR funding.

There are key differences for entrepreneurs to understand in navigating when and how to apply for SBIR funding at across federal agencies. CEBN is here to offer some insight into navigating these funding opportunities.

Which agencies have SBIR programs?

See below for a complete list of which agencies participate in SBIR and STTR, and what each program offers. We encourage you to keep an open mind – there may be funding opportunities for your technology at agencies that you might not initially consider.

All programs offer Phase I grants of $100,000 and Phase II grants of $600,000 unless otherwise specified. Typically, only Phase I awardees are eligible for Phase II grants, but there are exceptions at some agencies.

  • Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers grants to small business across 10 SBIR and STTR topics, including conversation of natural resources, rural development, and biofuels. Phase I is generally released every year in July and due in October. Phase II is released in December and due in February.
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (an agency within the Departmet of Commerce) offers topic-specific SBIR solicitations. In 2021, the NOAA SBIR research priorities were: (1) Enhance U.S. Weather and Water Prediction Capabilities, (2) Build the Domestic Blue Economy, and (3) Increase Innovation in Data Collection from Space. The application opened in November, with letters of intent due in December and the final application in February.
  • Department of Education releases solicitations annually for Phase I and Phase II, typically in early winter. Proposals are due 60 days later. Phase I awards are up to $250k and Phase II are up to $1 million.
  • Department of Energy (DOE) offers two releases of SBIR and STTR funding a year. Phase I Release 1 topics are announced in July and due in October. Phase I Release 2 topics are announced in November and due in February. Phase II topics are also released twice a year in October and February. A letter of intent is required mid-way through the application period, and the DOE will respond to let applicants know if their project is responsive to the topic.
  • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers up to $150,000 in Phase I and up to $1 million in Phase II. HHS also offers STTR funding. These programs operate at the CDC, FDA, and ACF. In addition, theNational Institute of Health (NIH) accepts SBIR/STTR applications three times a year (September 5, January 5, and April 5) without a specific topic, with targeted solicitations once a year.
  • Department of Homeland Security issues an annual solicitation in various areas, including critical infrastructure and resilience. Solicitations are often released in the winter.
  • Department of Transportation (DOT) offers Phase I funding up to $200,000 and Phase II up to $1.5 million. Technical topics are released during the pre-solicitation interchange, which allows potential applicants to submit questions about the topics, then there is a 30-day streamlined solicitation process.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) solicits SBIR applications once a year, typically opening in June and closing in August. Previous topics related to clean energy include air quality and climate, circular economy, sustainable materials, and clean and safe water. The EPA offers SBIR Phase I and II. Phase II awards range up to $400,000.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) offers up to $150,000 in Phase I and up to $850,000 for Phase II SBIR and STTR. Solicitations are typically released in January and due in the spring. NASA also has a program called NASA SBIR Ignite which places a greater emphasis on commercialization and funds early-stage, high-risk technology development.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) has a rolling deadline for SBIR and STTR. NSF accepts applications across nearly all technology areas and market sectors, including energy technologies, environmental technologies, and advanced manufacturing. Phase I awards are up to $275,000, and Phase II is up to $1.4 million.

    Which agencies currently have open solicitations?

    This website has a continually updated list of open solicitations. SBIR.gov has also prepared this calendar to help you plan around when the agencies are expected to release solicitations throughout the year.

    Planner for SBIR at the eleven federal agencies

    How do I get support for my SBIR application?

    Given the 40-year track record of SBIR programs and their place in the innovation ecosystem, there are support organizations across the country for applicants and awardees. See below for a list of support organizations—please note that this is not a comprehensive list, and we encourage you to do further research.

    Getting support for submitting a proposal:

    • Dawnbreaker: The Department of Energy (DOE) offers a free Phase 0 program for first-time applicants. Apply to Dawnbreaker for comprehensive application assistance support.
    • Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) often have SBIR support (e.g. Texas). Find your SBDC here.

Finding collaborators:

    • NSF Regional Innovation Engines, or NSF Engines offers an interactive map to collaborate and find partners. NSF Engines will create regional-scale innovation ecosystems nationwide.
    • There are two annual SBIR/STTR Innovation Conferences. Registration is open for the 2022 Fall Innovation Conference.

    Which states have matching or additional SBIR funds?

    • Alabama: The Alabama Innovation Corporation offers SBIR follow-on funding
    • Florida: Up to $150k for Phase II recipients from the Florida High Tech Corridor
    • Hawaii: Up to 50% matching for Phase I and up to $500k for Phase II
    • Iowa: Up to $25k for Phase I and $25k for Phase II from BioConnect Iowa
    • Kentucky: Up to $150k for Phase I and $500k for Phase II
    • Maine: Up to $256k for Phase I and up to $1.2m for Phase II
    • Massachusetts: Various opportunities for $75k-$300k for Phase I, in addition to Stage II and Stage III grants up to $500k
    • Michigan: Up to $250k Phase I and $750k Phase II
    • Montana: Up to $60k for both Phase I and II
    • Nebraska: Matching 65% or up to $100k
    • North Carolina: Matching 50% or up to $100k
    • Rhode Island: Up to $45k for Phase I and $100k for Phase II
    • South Carolina: Matching 50% or up to $50k
    • Tennessee: $100k for Phase I and $300k for Phase II
    • Virginia: Up to $50k for Phase I and II
    • Wisconsin: Matching 50% or up to $75k for Phase I and up to $100k annually for Phase II

    Will SBIR be reauthorized?

    SBIR has a 40-year track record of success of leveraging small business innovation and is a crucial initiative to bolster clean energy innovation, national security, and economic growth more broadly. However, SBIR and STTR are set to expire on Oct. 1st. The House-passed defense bill includes a two-year reauthorization, and the Senate version of the bill would extend the program for one year.  We encourage you to sign onto CEBN’s coalition and business sign-on letter which urges Senate leaders to extend this program for two years.

    Learn more by exploring the other entries in our Insight into Federal Programs series, which features deep dives on existing programs that can help you build your business or organization. CEBN’s cleantech funding database includes even more opportunities.