General Questions SBIR/STTR

You may find what you need by scanning our FAQs. However, feel free to contact one of our Consultants with your specific need since we are here to help.

How would I benefit from the SBIR/STTR program? 

There is over $2 billion available annually in SBIR/STTR awards! SBIR/STTR funding is an excellent way of starting your business without giving up equity or assuming debt. Other benefits include:

  • Winning an SBIR/STTR award confers creditability to your idea and your team, and provides national recognition.  It often helps attract  follow-on financing and/or licensing deal
  • Your firm retains rights to the intellectual property developed with an award 

What is the difference between a grant and a contract?

A grant is an agreement to carry out your research in return for a monetary award of funding. The federal government funds research and innovation of public benefit in this way. Grant topics are generally initiated by the researcher applying for the grant, also known as the Principal Investigator an academic setting. A granting agency does not wish to become your customer.  

A contract is an agreement to provide a product or service that is needed by the agency awarding the contract. An example of this would be the procurement of new military technology by the Department of Defense.  In this instance, the military becomes your customer.  

Who is the Principal Investigator?

The Principal Investigator is the person responsible for overseeing the research  Typically, this individual has designed and overseen research efforts in the past, although if you have not done so, we can help you find ways to compensate for that.

The Principal Investigator, or PI, must commit to leading the project which typically involves taking at least partial employment at the small business at the time of the award. This does not preclude partial employment at a university or elsewhere, and in certain case, there are exceptions to this rule. 

What is the difference between the SBIR and the STTR programs, and which one is better?

There is no right or wrong program.  Choosing a program is a strategic decision that is based on your company’s situation and needs. However, there are some notable differences in the funding levels and some differences in the rules of eligibility between the two programs. More agencies participate in the SBIR program than the  STTR program. Thus, SBIR programs have more total funds available. However, with STTR awards, the businesses do not need to employ the Principal Investigator, thus a PI PI can continue working for the University or nonprofit research institution if that is desirable.

From your perspective, the key distinction often rests on where the research scope of work must be performed. If you can accomplish at least 60% of the scope of work (as determined by the budget) within your small business, you are eligible to apply for an SBIR. Sometimes, if specialized equipment or expensive resources are required to conduct the research, by default the budget may dicatate that less than 60% of the work can be done at the small business. In this case, ou may be eligible for submitting an STTR qhich is a grant or contract that requires collaboration with a research institution such as a university or federal lab. Contact CTC to help identify the best strategic option for your company.

What is the history of SBIR/STTR programs?

The SBIR program was established under the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 to strengthen the role of innovative small businesses in federally-funded research and development (R&D). Information about the history of the programs can be found .

What agencies participate in SBIR/STTR?

SBIR.gov shows the and other useful information.

What are the solicitations dates?

Solicitation close dates vary by agency, although an important consideration is that many of them occur only once per year. Please see us for assistance or visit the specific agency website or for more information.  

Can I apply for a Phase II without competing for a Phase I?

No. The NIH recently were authorized to award Phase II awards to firms that have not received a previous Phase I award.  However the authorization for this option has been rescinded.

Eligibility Questions

Can I apply for an SBIR award if I am working full time at a University or with a company?

Yes, you may. However, to be eligible for SBIR funding, the Principal Investigator must be primarily employed by the business at the time of the award.  There are nuances about this matter, so it's best to discuss with your CTC consultant and read the agency solicitation thoroughly.   

Am I eligible for SBIR/STTR funding if I have already received investments from venture capital, hedge funds, or private equity?

With the latest reauthorization, SBIR/STTR funding became available to those applying to some agencies. For example, NIH, NSF, and DoE are authorized to fund up to 25% of their awards to small businesses in this group. However, it is up to each agency’s discretion. There are detailed eligibility requirements to consider in this instance, so please look to us to help guide you through this issue. This chart may also help you ascertain eligibility. 

SBIR Eligibility