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Fact Sheet

Small Business Innovation Research

June 15, 2009

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Purpose. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program stimulates technological innovation and commercial applications by increasing opportunities for small science, engineering and technology-based firms to participate in federally supported research and development. Initiated at NSF in 1977, SBIR now spans 11 federal agencies.

How it works. NSF annually solicits SBIR grant proposals and categorizes them into four topic areas, each with a list of significant subtopics. Proposals are evaluated competitively, giving primary consideration to scientific and technical merit with potential for commercialization. Implemented in three phases, projects are first funded for a six-month feasibility study under Phase I. If determined eligible, they may receive funding for the principal research effort under Phase II. In Phase III, which does not involve SBIR funding, grant recipients pursue commercial applications of the resulting research.

Budget. Each government agency with a large extramural research budget is congressionally directed to spend 2.8 percent of its budget on the SBIR program. NSF's SBIR budget for 2009 is $119 million.

Examples. Government-wide, successful projects have produced new scientific instrumentation, advanced materials, novel antibiotics, environmental services and computer applications. NSF-funded SBIR projects include artificial intelligence controls for aircraft, grade K-6 educational software, flat-screen display technology, robot vision and an optical system for precision photolithography.


Media Contacts
Joshua A. Chamot, NSF, (703) 292-7730, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, its budget is $7.8 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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