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Fact Sheet

NSF Research Support Nurtures Small Companies with Big Ideas

Federal government funds $2 billion in small-company innovation annually

Test drive the iSEM simulator at

Test drive the iSEM simulator at

April 10, 2006

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 Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a long history of supporting basic research that leads to marketable products through programs from across the Foundation. Many developments have had an impact far beyond what the original investigators had imagined.

NSF is an active player in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs that directly support businesses and their partners in academia. Such programs have nurtured small companies into major market leaders, such as Symantec, Qualcomm, Sensant (now part of Siemens), Vivisimo, Displaytech and Aurora Flight Sciences.

Emphasizing high-risk, high-payback innovations, SBIR/STTR programs are tied to NSF's mission to support advancements in science, engineering and education. Panels of engineers, scientists and business leaders evaluate SBIR/STTR proposals based on technical merit, potential impact on society and company strengths. NSF awarded more than 300 SBIR/STTR grants in FY 2005, for a total investment of $100 million.

NSF piloted the SBIR/STTR programs over 20 years ago. Since then, the programs have spread to 10 federal agencies. Coordinated by the Small Business Administration, these agencies collectively support over $2 billion in innovation research each year. The success of the SBIR/STTR programs has led to their replication across the globe as nations strive to find new ways to compete in the global, technology-enabled, innovation economy.

The news items below highlight several of the NSF-supported SBIR/STTR breakthroughs from the past year.

Education Magnified 100,000X
Lab simulator packs teaching power of electron microscope at the expense of a textbook

Nano-engineered Powders Tackle Toxic Chemicals
Thirsty grains act fast to clean up messes

Robot Assistant Reports to Surgery
Machine lets nurses focus on patient care

Ben Franklin Web Portal Brings the Man to the Masses
Driven by search-engine technology, site highlights three centuries of revolutionary influence

Electronic Braille Tutor Teaches Independence
Bilingual system reborn in new hardware

Doodle Search
New software can hunt through online catalogs using only a sketch

Silicon Solution Could Lead to a Truly Long-life Battery
New devices may provide power for decades


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

Program Contacts
Kesh S. Narayanan, NSF, (703) 292-7076, email:
Joseph E. Hennessey, NSF, (703) 292-7069, 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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