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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) & Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program


small business innovation research
seed money for high risk, high reward private sector ventures

Program Description

The National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent agency of the Federal Government, invites (by solicitation) eligible small business concerns to participate in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs. NSF will support high-quality projects on important scientific, engineering, or science/engineering education problems and opportunities that could lead to significant commercial and public benefit, if the research is successful.

The significant difference between the SBIR and STTR programs is that the STTR requires researchers at universities and other research institutions to play a significant intellectual role in the conduct of each STTR project. By joining forces with a small company, university researchers can spin-off their commercially promising ideas while they remain employed primarily at the research institution.

Program Features

B.1. Legislative Basis: SBIR solicitations are issued pursuant to the authority contained in Public Law 106-554, as amended (Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982) (15 U.S.C. 638). SBIR policy is provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the SBA Policy Directive. The STTR Program, currently in five Federal agencies, is pursuant to the authority contained in Public Law 107-50, amended (Small Business Technology Transfer Act of 1992) (Public Law 102-564, Title II). Under this program, a small portion of a Federal agency's extramural research and research and development (R/R&D) effort is reserved for awards to small business concerns and their non-profit research institution partners for cooperative research and development efforts. For more information on the other STTR programs see website: http://www.sba.gov/sbir/

B.2. Program Purpose: The SBIR/STTR Programs stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, by strengthening the role of small business concerns in meeting Federal research and development needs, increasing the commercial application of federally supported research results, and fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged persons and women-owned small businesses in technological innovation. The primary objective of the NSF SBIR/STTR Programs is to increase the incentive and opportunity for small firms to undertake cutting-edge, high-risk, high-quality scientific, engineering, or science/engineering education research that would have a high-potential economic payoff if the research is successful. The STTR program further expands the public/private partnership to include joint venture opportunities for small businesses and non-profit research institutions. NSF expects synergism in the proposed research. A team approach is required in which at least one research investigator is employed by the small business concern as the Principal Investigator and at least one investigator is employed by the research institution as the Research Institution Investigator. The proposed research for both SBIR and STTR must be responsive to the NSF program interests. The NSF SBIR/STTR Programs do not support projects that are primarily for demonstration, technical assistance, literature survey, and market research. Patent application and patent litigation costs are not supported under NSF SBIR/STTR awards.

NSF normally does not support bioscience research with disease-related goals, including work on the etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of physical or mental disease, abnormality, or malfunction in human beings or animals. Also, animal models of such conditions or the development or testing of drugs or other procedures for their treatment are not eligible for support. However, research in bioengineering, with diagnosis or treatment-related goals, that applies engineering principles to problems in biology and medicine while advancing engineering knowledge, is eligible for support. Bioengineering research to aid persons with disabilities also is eligible, as are biomedical applications in certain areas of microelectronic information processing.

Projects involving research on human subjects must ensure that subjects are protected from research risks in conformance with the Common Rule (Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects). Awards involving human subjects will require grantee compliance with the NSF regulation, entitled, "Protection of Human Subjects," 45 CFR 690. Projects involving vertebrate animals will comply with the Animal Welfare Act (7 USC §§ 2131-59) and the regulations promulgated thereunder by the Secretary of Agriculture (CFR, Title 9, Subchapter A, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4) pertaining to the care, handling and treatment of vertebrate animals held or used for research, teaching or other activities supported by Federal Grants. For more information reference the Grants Policy Manual at: http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsf022

Unsolicited proposals shall not be accepted under the SBIR/STTR Program B.3. Program Funding: Participating agencies conduct SBIR/STTR programs by reserving a small percent of their research and development budgets for funding agreements with small business concerns for R/R&D during the first two phases of the three-phase process described here. Each agency, at its sole discretion, selects the technical topics and subtopics included in its Solicitation and its SBIR/STTR awards. Tuition costs are not supported costs under a SBIR/STTR grant. NSF does not consider tuition costs research or research and development. Phase III follow-on funding supports development efforts using non-SBIR and usually non-Federal funding for commercial application of the research supported by NSF under Phases I and II.

NSF SBIR Phase I awards will be made for a maximum of $150,000; SBIR Phase II awards will be made for a maximum of $500,000. NSF STTR Phase I awards will be made for a maximum of $150,000; STTR Phase II awards will be made for a maximum of $500,000. Additional supplemental award (Phase IB and Phase IIB) will be made to eligible SBIR/STTR Phase I and Phase II grantees.

B.4. NSF SBIR/STTR Program Goals: The goals of the SBIR/STTR programs are as follows:

    Develop intellectual capital - Make awards for research that build upon recent discoveries in basic sciences and engineering and provides opportunities for individuals who have, or are working toward, advanced scientific, engineering, or education degrees. Strengthen the physical infrastructure - Make awards that lead to development of new scientific, engineering, and education capability through commercialization of advanced instruments, new processes, and innovative software, etc.
Three-Phase SBIR/STTR Programs

Q. I created the proposal and I am now listed as the PI but this needs to be changed. How can I change who is listed as the PI?
A. You are not able to change the PI on an SBIR/STTR proposal. To correct this, the new PI must log in using his/her login information and create a new SBIR/STTR proposal. Unfortunately, the proposal information must be re-entered into the new proposal.

Q . How do I add a subaward/subcontract budget to my proposal?
A. For step by step instructions, please click on the following link: Adding a Sub-Budget

Q.Can SBIR/STTR use the EXCEL spreadsheet option for creating the proposal budget?
A. The SBIR/STTR program is now supported by the EXCEL spreadsheet option. Most proposers use the FastLane form to input information directly.

Q. I am listed as a subaward/subcontract on this SBIR/STTR proposal. How can I submit the proposal?
A. The small business/lead organization actually submits the proposal, coordinate submission with the small business.

Q. What is a DUNS number?
A. The DUNS number is a nine-digit number assigned by Dun and Bradstreet Information Services. If the proposer does not have a DUNS number, they should contact Dun and Bradstreet by telephone directly at (866) 705-5711 to obtain one. A DUNS number should be provided immediately by telephone at no charge.

Q. I have a DUNS number. How do I enter it on my proposal?
A. The DUNS is added when you submit the proposal. The system will prompt you to enter the DUNS number.

Q.How can I submit my proposal if I cannot obtain a DUNS number prior to submission?
A. If you do not have a DUNS number at the time of submission, you may type in a 9-digit place holder in order to allow the submission to go through. For example, type in a series of the same digit such as using number 1 to fill the field. You may obtain your DUNS number at a later time and edit the number through the Research Administration module of FastLane using the “Review/Revise Organizational Information” section.

Q. I need to choose the Topic program and Subtopic letters. Where can I find this information?
A. Links to find the Topic and Subtopic letters can be found in the program solicitation or program specifications (found on the SBIR/STTR homepage).

Q. How can I choose more than one topic/subtopic on the cover sheet?
A. Designate one, and only one, of the topics. The topic name and the appropriate subtopic letter MUST be identified on the cover sheet. A firm may submit separate proposals on different topics or different proposals on the same topic under this Solicitation. Proposals found to be non-responsive to the solicitation topics will be returned to the proposer without further consideration.

Q.Is it mandatory to fill out the checklist on the Cover Sheet? What will happen if I do not fill out all of the requested information?
A. The SBIR/STTR checklist MUST be completed; all questions must be answered. If a company fails to do so, the proposal will be returned without review.

Q. I have completed the budget but the requested amount is not showing up on the Cover Sheet. How can we correct this?
A. After budget is complete, you can manually change the requested amount on the cover sheet (if the amount is not showing correctly).

Q. What is the maximum number of pages one can have for the biographical sketch? Is it 2 pages per person (as stated in the GPG)?
A. It is preferred that you try to keep each bio to 2 pages per person, but if you go over this will not disqualify your proposal

Q. Must a biosketch and current and pending support for the consultants/subawards be uploaded to Fastlane?
A. A biosketch is needed for the PI and Key personnel for the company. If you have a consultant or subcontractor associated with the project, a biosketch is required as well for these individuals. Current and pending support is only for the company personnel.

Q. What is the maximum number of pages one can have for the budget justification? Is it up to 3 pages (as stated in the GPG)? If so, are they allowed 3 pages for each budget or 3 pages for all budgets combined?
A. No limit. It is required that ALL budget line items be explained.

Q. The GPG says that the font size can be no smaller than 10 pt. Does this apply to the text for graphics?
A. The font size only pertains to the proposal text. The text for pictures, graphs, etc. can be smaller but must be legible.

Q. Is it mandatory to list Suggested Reviewers? A. Listing suggested reviewers is optional. The suggested reviewers may or may not be considered by NSF. The suggested reviewers are those that the SBIR/STTR applicant knows are qualified and will not have a conflict of interest. There is not a list of reviewers to choose from.

Q. What are "key words?"
A. The key words should associate the project with a specific technology.

Q. I am using an Apple Computer. When I print my document, the margins and fonts are smaller than what we chose.
A. If an Apple user says they printed their document but the margins and fonts are small than what they had chosen in their original document, you can have them check:

  1. The margin size and make sure they followed the GPG.
  2. When they print, the Acrobat executable file pops up. They should choose their File (pop down menu) and choose Page Setup. Have them look at Paper (option within Page Setup). The Apple may have defaulted to US Letter Small instead of US Letter. Change this option to US Letter.

Q. The Project Summary states a 200-word summary for intellectual merit and a 200-word summary for broader impacts is required; does this include the key words and restatement of the topic/subtopic designation?
A. The 200-word summary that pertains to the identification of the problem, the research objectives and the anticipated results of the project (i.e. the technical meritsof the proposal). Another 200-word summary is required addressing the commercial applications (i.e. broader impacts) of the project. The key words and restatement of the topic/subtopic are separate and not counted in these word counts. Please keep this section to one page.

Q. Where do letters of commitment go in a Phase I or Phase II proposal?
A. Letters of commitment go in the Supplementary Documents module of FastLane. They do not count toward the total page count.

Q. Where do consultant letters go in a Phase I or Phase II proposal?
A. Consultant Letters stating the number of days plus the daily rate not to exceed the published amount in the solicitation, must be uploaded as part of the budget justification. They do NOT count toward the total page count. We suggest that you reduce the letters to save space and then email or mail the full size letters to the appropriate Program Officer; note the reduced letters must remain legible. Reminder: The number of consultant days must be stated in the letter as well as the maximum consultant rate (currently the consultant rate is $600 per day).

Q. I am applying to the STTR program (not SBIR). On the cover sheet, I am given the opportunity to add a Co-PI. Is this correct? Must the Co-PI be the Research Investigator?
A. Yes, the STTR Research Investigator is treated as a Co-PI.

Q. How can both the business and the research institution sign the Cover Sheet for an STTR proposal?
A. The proposal should be electronically signed by the small business. For instructions, click on the following link: Electronic Signature

Q. For STTR, the Cooperative Research Agreement must be obtained. Is it correct that it should be filled out entirely and upload it to the supplementary documents section without signatures, because it will be signed after it's awarded?
A. A "signed" cooperative agreement is necessary upon award recommendation. A letter stating that the two parties are working on a cooperative agreement is all that is necessary at the time of submission. However, if you anticipate a long turnaround for completion of the agreement, this should be started as soon as possible to prevent delays in obtaining the award if granted. Once notified by the NSF Program Manager that your proposal is being recommended for award, you have one week to provide a signed cooperative agreement.

FAQs about Submission of Proposals

Q. When can I apply for a Phase II proposal? Is it July or January?
A. The Phase I Award Letter has the dates for the Phase II proposal submission listed. If unsure please check with your SBIR/STTR Program Manager to confirm the due dates. Each Phase I grantee has two opportunities to submit. A Phase I Final Report must be submitted prior to submission of the Phase II proposal and must be uploaded in the Supplementary Documents module of FastLane as part of the Phase II proposal.

Q. Should I print, sign, and mail the cover sheet?
A. Electronic Signature takes care of all requirements. No paper copies (of anything) are needed.

Q. Do I have to mail a copy of the signed budget to NSF?

FAQs about Supplements

Q. What is a grant supplement?
A. The SBIR/STTR program offers a number of opportunities to obtain funds directed at targeted goals of either the NSF as a whole or the SBIR/STTR program specifically. For instance the REU supplement enhances the participation of underrepresented groups in undergraduate research. A full explanation of the supplements available can be found on the SBIR homepage (http://www.nsf.gov/eng/iip/sbir/Supplement/index.jsp).

Q. What is a Phase IB?
A. The Phase IB is a supplement to the Phase I grant first established in 2006. It provides the Phase I grantee an option to obtain supplemental funds during the interim period between Phase I and Phase II if the grantee obtains matching funds from a third party. The supplement deadline is Oct 15 th and April 15 th during an active Phase I.

Q. What is a Phase IIB?
A. The Phase IIB helps bridge the gap in funding between Phase II and Phase III commercialization. The Phase IIB will provide additional funds to Phase II grantees that obtain third party funds. The objective of the Phase IIB Option is to extend the R&D efforts beyond a current grant to meet the product/process/software requirements of a third party investor and to accelerate the Phase II project to the commercialization stage. The Phase IIB Option extends the Phase II grant for one year (if < $250,000) or two years ( > $250,000) such that the combined Phase II and IIB will not typically exceed 3-4 years in duration. The Phase IIB option only applies to active Phase II grants, being in a no-cost extension disqualifies a grantee from the Phase IIB option. Make sure that a Phase IIB is applied for during the original performance period of the Phase II grant (for further information call your Program Officer). Phase IIB proposal must be submitted at least 60 days prior to the original expiration date of the Phase II award. Dialogue with the Program Officer is required prior to submitted the Phase IIB proposal.

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