Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program is a congressionally mandated small business set-aside. Established in 1982 (with subsequent reauthorizations in 1986, 1992, and 2000), it has four main goals:

  • Stimulate technological innovation;
  • Use small business to meet Federal Research/Research & Development (R/R&D) needs;
  • Foster and encourage participation by socially and economically disadvantaged small business companies (SBCs), and by SBCs that are 51 percent owned and controlled by women, in technological innovation; and
  • Increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal R/R&D, thereby increasing competition, productivity and economic growth.

Each Federal agency ( Federal Agencies in the SBIR Program ) with an extramural budget for R/R&D in excess of $100,000,000 must participate in the SBIR Program through a uniform three-phase process:

  • Phase I: The object of this phase is to determine the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the proposed effort. Phase I awards are up to $100,000 and no more than six months in duration.
  • Phase II: The object of this phase is to continue the R/R&D effort from the completed Phase I. Only SBIR awardees in Phase I are eligible to participate in Phases II and III. Phase II awards are up to $750,000 and typically no more than two years in duration. Funding is based upon the results of Phase I and the scientific and technical merit and commercial potential of the Phase II proposal.
  • Phase III: This phase refers to work that derives from, extends, or logically concludes effort(s) performed under prior SBIR funding agreements, but is funded by sources other than the SBIR Program. Phase III work is typically oriented towards commercialization of SBIR research or technology. Phase III work may be for products, production services, R/R&D, or any combination thereof. A Phase III award is, by its nature, an SBIR award, has SBIR status, and must be accorded SBIR data rights. There is no limit on the number, duration, type, or dollar value of Phase III awards made to a business concern. There is no limit on the time that may elapse between a Phase I or Phase II award and Phase III award, or between a Phase III award and any subsequent Phase III award.

A business concern must meet the following at the time of award:

Type and Size of Firm
  • Organized as a for-profit concern
  • Place of business located in the U.S. and operates primarily in the U.S. or which makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy
  • Not more than 500 employees, including affiliates
  • Can be a joint venture; each party to the joint venture must be a concern that satisfies all program eligibility requirements

Ownership and Control
  • Firm's equity must be more than 50% directly owned and controlled by one of the following:
    • One or more individuals (who are citizens or permanent resident aliens of the U.S.)
    • Other for-profit small business concerns (each of which is directly owned and controlled by individuals who are citizens or permanent resident aliens of the U.S.)
    • A combination of (1) and (2) above
  • Multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, private equity firms, or any combination of these, as long as no one such firm owns or controls more than 50% of the equity. (Note: this option is allowed only if an agency elects to use the authority provided in section 5107 of the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011, 15 U.S.C. section 638(dd)(1).)

Principal Investigator
  • Primary employment (more than one-half of the time) must be with the small business at the time of award and during the project duration

To learn more about the SBIR Program, please visit https://www.sbir.gov/ .