SBIR/STTR program FAQ All of the questions you ever wanted to ask about SBIR/STTR. Curated directly from:, now searchable.

What is the SBIR Program?

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 that has the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive award process, SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to pro t from commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's research and development (R&D) arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated, and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific R&D needs.

What is the STTR Program?

The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation arena. Central to the program is the expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include joint venture opportunities between small businesses and nonprofit research institutions. The unique feature of the STTR program is the requirement for the small business to formally collaborate with a research institution in Phase I and Phase II. STTR's most important role is to bridge the gap between performance of basic science and commercialization of resulting innovations.

How does the STTR program differ from SBIR program?

STTR differs from SBIR in several ways, including:

1. For and STTR award, the small business must perform at least 40% of the work and the single partnering research institution must perform at least 30% of the work.

2. STTR requires the Small Business Concern (SBC) and its partnering institution to establish an intellectual property agreement detailing the allocation of intellectual property rights and rights to carry out follow-on research, development or commercialization activities.

What are the objectives of the SBIR/STTR Program?

The mission of the SBIR program is to stimulate technology innovation by strengthening the role of innovative SBCs in Federal Research/ R&D. The programs goals are four-fold:

  1. Stimulate technological innovation.

  2. Use small businesses to meet Federal R&D needs.

  3. Foster and encourage participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses.

  4. Increase private-sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal R&D funding.

Which Federal Agencies participate in the SBIR Program?

Each year, Federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets that exceed $100 million are required to allocate a certain percentage of their R&D budget to the SBIR program. Currently, eleven Federal agencies participate in the 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

Each of these agencies has an SBIR program and administers the program within guidelines established by Congress in the Small Business Act and by SBA in the SBIR Policy Directive. The agencies designate R&D topics in their solicitations and accept proposals from small businesses. Awards are made on a competitive basis after proposal evaluation.

Does the Small Business Administration (SBA) make any awards under the SBIR/ STTR Program?

No, the SBA does not directly administer the awards. The SBA has the responsibility for directing the participating agencies in the administration of the program. It helps the participating agencies implement SBIR/STTR, reviews their progress, reports annually to Congress on its operation, and aggregates agency solicitation announcement information.

What is an SBIR/STTR funding agreement?

An SBIR/STTR funding agreement is a contract, grant, or cooperative agreement entered into between an SBIR/STTR participating Federal Agency and a small business for the performance of research, experimental, or developmental work funded by the Federal Government.


Who is eligible to receive SBIR and STTR awards?

To receive an SBIR or STTR award, the awardee must qualify as a Small Business Concern (SBC) as defined by SBA regulations at 13 C.F.R. §§ 701-705.  The eligibility requirements for the SBIR/STTR programs are unique and do not correspond to those of other small business programs.

How is "Small Business Concern" defined for purposes of the SBIR Program?

A Small Business Concern (SBC) must satisfy the following conditions on the date of award for both Phase I and Phase II funding agreements:(1) is organized for pro t, with a place of business located in the United States, which operates primarily within the United States or which makes a significant contribution to the United States economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials or labor;(2) is in the legal form of an individual proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, joint venture, association, trust or cooperative, except that if the concern is a joint venture, each entity to the venture must meet the requirements set forth in paragraph (3) below;(3) is more than 50 percent directly owned and controlled by one or more individuals (who are citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States), other small business concerns (each of which is more than 50% directly owned and controlled by individuals who are citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States), or any combination of these; and(4) has, including its affiliates, not more than 500 employees.  (For explanation see SBIR program only:  Some of the 11 federal agencies administering SBIR awards may choose to issue a portion of their awards to  rms that are majority-owned by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, or private equity firms.  You can see which agency is currently using this authority here.

Who determines if my company is eligible for an SBIR/STTR award?

Applicants must self-certify at the time of award that their company meets the definition of an SBC for the program and is otherwise eligible.  Applicants should be certain of their compliance with the eligibility requirements before formally certifying as an SBC.  Information on SBA size determination and protest procedures can be found at

Must I own a company to receive an SBIR/STTR award?

SBIR awards go only to small, for-pro t,  rms that meet the above definition of an SBC. This includes sole proprietorships.

Does the company need to be founded prior to SBIR/STTR proposal submission?
You do not have to certify eligibility until the time of award, and most agencies allow you to submit an application prior to establishing the business that will receive the award.  However, to avoid potential complications, you should discuss this with the procuring agency’s contracts or grants of cer before applying.

How do I apply for an SBIR/STTR award?

Applications for SBIR/STTR awards are submitted in response to agency solicitations.  You may  find links to the solicitations from the agencies here. Submit your application in response to a particular solicitation and technical topic.

Can I apply for an SBIR/STTR award if I am working full-time at a University or a large corporation?

Yes, however you will be required to certify at the time of award that your  rm is an eligible SBC, and that it is the primary place of employment for the proposed project’s principal investigator. If a university or large business is assisting you with the proposal or a subcontractor or sub-grantee, you may be found affiliated with the university or large business.  (See SBA’s SBIR/STTR affiliations rules regarding affiliation based on identity of interest, newly organized concern rule, ostensible subcontractor rule, and the totality of circumstances).

Is a small U.S.  rm still eligible to compete for an SBIR/STTR award if it forms a 50-50 joint venture with a non-pro t or foreign  rm?

No.  In order to receive an SBIR/STTR award, the joint venture must be a small business and all parties to the joint venture must meet the program’s eligibility requirements.  If one party to the joint venture is a non-pro t, the non-pro t would not meet the SBA’s definition of “business concern,” which requires the business to be for-pro t.  With respect to the foreign  rm, it would not likely meet SBA’s ownership and control requirements.  

Are non-profit organizations eligible for SBIR/STTR awards?

No. A non-pro t organization cannot directly receive an SBIR or STTR award.  Non-profits may be a minority investor or subcontractor or sub-grantee on a project.  In addition, an STTR awardee must subcontract a portion of the award to a research institution – a scientific or educational nonprofit institution, or a Federally Funded R&D Centers (FFRDC).

What non-profit research institutions qualify to participate in the STTR program?

The research institution must be owned and operated exclusively for scientific or educational purposes, non-profit, and located in the USA. Research institutions eligible to participate in the STTR Program include:

Nonprofit college or university
Domestic nonprofit scientific/research organization
Federally Funded R&D Centers (FFRDC)

I have a business, however, I am not federally registered (thus I don't have an EIN/TIN). Can I still apply to the SBIR/STTR programs?

You must have an EIN/TIN to receive an award. 

Can an SBC receive an SBIR/STTR Phase II award from an agency other than the one that issued the associated Phase I award?


Who resolves problems concerning SBIR/STTR topics, awards, audits, etc.?

The agency issuing the Program Solicitation resolves contracts and grant disputes.  SBA directs program policy for all participating agencies, reports to Congress and provides program oversight.

Can an SBIR/STTR Phase III follow-on funding contract be made, without competition, to the  rm that successfully completes Phase I and II?

Yes, the  rm may be given a sole source contract for further work or production that derives from, extends, or completes earlier SBIR/STTR work.  Such follow-on work must be given Phase III status by the agency.

What is the minimum percent breakout for small  rms and institutions in conducting STTR research?

SBCs must perform at least 40% and research institutions must perform at least 30% of the work.

Are unsolicited proposals accepted for the SBIR/STTR programs?

No, a proposal must respond to a solicitation published by one or more of the participating agencies.

Who is the prime contractor or grantee in an STTR award?

The small business concern is the prime contractor or grantee.

When you are determining eligibility does it matter in which state the company performs the work?

No.  The state the company is in does not affect eligibility, rather we focus on which country the company is located in (i.e., the awardee must have a place of business located in the United States (U.S.), and operate primarily within the U.S. or make a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials or labor).  In addition, the SBIR and STTR work must be performed in the U.S.

What if I do not qualify for the SBIR/STTR program? What are other ways to obtain funding for my business?

Our partners at BusinessUSA have built a tool, the Access Financing
[ nancing] wizard, to help small businesses and ways to fund their business a the Federal, state, and/or local levels.

What if I have not incorporated and/or started a business? What do I do next?

Our partners at BusinessUSA have built a tool, the Start a Business
[] wizard, to help small businesses through aspects of starting a business and  finding information you need to succeed.


What is the size rule?

On December 27, 2012, SBA amended its regulations governing size and eligibility requirements for the SBIR and STTR programs.  The rule implemented provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 by revising elements of 13 CFR part 121 that address ownership, control, and affiliation for participants in the SBIR/STTR programs. The rule includes a new provision regarding an agency option to allow participation by  rms that are majority-owned by multiple venture capital operating companies, private equity  firms or hedge funds.

When do the size rule changes take effect?

The final rule was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2012 and took effect January 28, 2013.

Where can I  find detailed policy language regarding the size rule and a summary of the rule?

The size rule is found at the following links: Size Regulations PDF. In addition, SBA has posted at a Guide to SBIR/STTR Program Eligibility that summarizes and explains the size rule and its changes to program eligibility requirements.

How do I know if Im affected by the size rule?

All  rms receiving an SBIR or STTR program award for solicitations posted after January 28, 2013 must comply with the new program eligibility requirements which are established with the size rule.

Will I be penalized if I don't meet the size rule?

Applicants that do not meet the eligibility requirements at the time of award will not be eligible to receive an award.

What is the process for applying for a second Phase II award?

That process will be spelled out in the agency solicitation.

Who counts as an employee?

Size of a  rm is determined by the average number of employees (including employees of all domestic and foreign affiliates) based upon the number of employees for each of the pay periods for the preceding completed 12 calendar months. SBA counts all individuals as employees, including part-time and temporary employees.

Is there a dispute resolution process or a person to contact if I have a concern with anything related to the size rule?

If you have size/eligibility questions, you may submit them here after consulting the eligibility guide.


What is the company registry?

The Company Registry is a new element of the SBIR/STTR data system and application process.  Once you have registered, your company will be given an SBIR/STTR ID number that you will use when applying to any SBIR/STTR agency solicitation.  SBA expects this to facilitate the application process and reduce the need for multiple data entry.

Who must register?

All applicants to the SBIR or STTR programs must register on the SBIR/STTR Company Registry.

If my company is already registered on SAM, do I also need to register on

Yes, company registration is required in addition to registration on SAM. We will not be rolling out a company registry that integrates with SAM at this time.

When should I register? For example, if a solicitation was issued before January 28, 2013, do I still need to complete the company registry?

Please register beginning 1/28/2013 and prior to your application submission. If the solicitation was issued before 1/28/2013, you do not need to register. You must register prior to submitting an application because you will be providing a copy of your registration to the agency, with your application.

What happens if we change our corporate structure and change our EIN or DUNS number, are we considered a new company or existing company?

If you change your corporate structure, EIN, or DUNS, you would add a new record to the already existing company for data and record keeping purposes.