Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)

Facts about SBIR

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a highly competitive three-phase award system which provides qualified small businesses with opportunities to propose innovative ideas that meet specific research and research and development needs of the Federal government. Enacted in 1982 as part of the Small Business Innovation Development Act, (and then reauthorized in 2000), Federal agencies with more than $100 million in extramural R&D were required to allocate a percentage of their budgets exclusively for small businesses. This set-aside began in 1983 at 0.2% and is currently 2.5% resulting in the availability of approximately $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2009 to R&D small businesses.

Objectives of SBIR

  • Stimulate technological innovation
  • Strengthen the role of small businesses in meeting Federal research and development needs
  • Increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal research and development.

Participating Federal Agencies

Small Business Eligibility

  • 500 or fewer employees
  • American-owned and independently operated
  • For profit

Three Phases

SBIR is a three-phase program of which two are Federally funded. Phase I is a feasibility study to evaluate the proposed project's technical merit for which an awardee may receive a maximum of $100,000 for approximately six months. Phase II is the principal R&D effort which expands on the Phase I results. This two-year project may receive up to $750,000 in funding. Only Phase I awardees are eligible to compete for Phase II funds. Phase III is the commercialization of the Phase II results and moves the innovation from the laboratory or test facility to the marketplace. This requires use of private sector or other non-SBIR funding. Some agencies do provide follow-up "Phase IIB" and/or matching funds to assist with commercialization activities.

Evaluation Criteria

  • Scientific and technical quality and innovativeness of the idea and the significance of the scientific or technical challenge.
  • Ability to carry out the project, i.e. qualifications of the principal investigator and other key personnel, adequacy of facilities and equipment, soundness of work plan.
  • The impact as evidenced by technical and/or economic benefits, the likelihood that the work would lead to a marketable product, or the likelihood the project could attract further funding.


Each year the eleven participating agencies issue program solicitations describing the technical areas for which they are interested. The solicitations, their release and due dates, and submission instructions are available at each agency website.


Operating procedures vary between the agencies, so it is wise to become familiar with the agencies by viewing their websites and/or contacting them as appropriate. The SBTDC is available to counsel you through the process.