SBIR Frequently Asked Questions

How can a small business concern obtain funding under SBIR? 

A small business can obtain funding under SBIR by competing for an SBIR through an agency SBIR solicitation and being the recipient of a competitively awarded SBIR funding agreement. 

What is an SBIR funding agreement? 

An SBIR funding agreement is a contract or grant entered into between an SBIR participating Federal Agency and a small business concern for the performance of experimental, developmental, or research work funded by the Federal Government.  NOAA issues contracts. 

Are nonprofit concerns eligible for SBIR awards? 


What is the small business size standard for purposes of the SBIR Program?

 A small business concern for purposes of award of any funding agreement under the SBIR Program is one which, including its affiliates, has a number of employees not exceeding 500. 

What are the three phases of the SBIR Program? 

  • Phase I is a feasibility study to evaluate the scientific and technical merit of an idea.  Awards are for periods for up to six months in amounts up to $150,000.  
  • Phase II is to expand on the results of and further pursue the development of Phase I.  Awards are for periods or up to two years in amounts up to $500,000.  
  • Phase III is for the commercialization of the results of Phase II and requires the use of private sector or non-SBIR Federal Funding. 

Do you have to be a Phase I awardee in order to be considered for Phase II of a project? 


Does the Small Business Administration (SBA) make any awards under the SBIR Program? 

No.  The SBA has authority and responsibility for monitoring and coordinating the Government-wide activities of the SBIR Program and reporting its results to Congress.  The Federal agencies participating in SBIR have the responsibility for: (a) selecting SBIR topics (b) releasing SBIR solicitations (c) evaluating SBIR proposals (d) awarding SBIR funding agreements on a competitive basis. 

Who are the participants in the SBIR Program? 

The following Federal agencies are eligible to participate:  

  • Department of Agriculture, 
  • Department of Commerce, 
  • Department of Defense, 
  • Department of Education, 
  • Department of Energy, 
  • Department of Health and Human Services, 
  • Department of Transportation,
  •  Environmental Protection Agency, 
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and 
  • National Science Foundation. 

Can a firm go directly to a Phase II award without having to compete for Phase I? 

No.  The SBIR Program was created to NEW innovations to meet existing Federal R&D needs.  The results of a Phase I are a determining factor in deciding whether there will be a Phase II award to continue the effort. Since SBIR is a program to assist small business innovators, 

Can SBA or the other Federal participating agencies provide direct funding for a project which a firm has initiated on its own? 

No.  SBA does not fund SBIR projects and such an endeavor would be considered an unsolicited proposal, which is outside the scope of the SBIR Program. 

Is a small US firm still eligible to compete for an SBIR award if it forms a 50-50 joint venture with a nonprofit or foreign firm? 


Can a Federal agency, other than the one originating the Phase I award make the Phase II award under the same SBIR topic? 


What is Phase III? 

Phase III is any non-SBIR dollars that are provided to the company.  Phase II is the goal of most SBIR projects.  It can consist of federal government funds or private sector funding.  The success of the NOAA SBIR program is measured by the number of companies that can successfully transition their SBIR efforts into commercialized products and services.  An important strength of the SBIR program is that once a company has received an SBIR award, the follow-on Phase III award can be made through a non-competitive process. 

Will SBA provide funds for SBIR commercialization?

No.  Private sources of capital should be used.  However, SBIR awardees are encouraged to seek information on all the services that SBA makes available to the small business community. 

Are data rights protected and for what length of time? 

Data rights are protected by agencies for a period of not less than 4 years from delivery of the last deliverable under the Phase I, II, or III award. 

Will innovations that have been patented or have patents pending be considered under SBIR? 


Can participating Federal agencies provide funds for SBIR commercialization? 

No.  Private sources of capital should be used.  However, the agencies can provide support for technical assistance.  SBIR awardees are encouraged to seek information on all of the services made available to the small business community. 

Are foreign-based firms eligible for SBIR awards?

No.  To be eligible for award of SBIR funding agreements, a small business concern has to meet the following qualifications:  be independently owned and operated principal place of business is located in the United States at least 51 percent owned or in the case of publicly owned business, at least 51% of its voting stock is owned by United States citizens or lawfully admitted permanent resident aliens. 

May a portion of an SBIR award be subcontracted? 

For Phase I, a minimum of two thirds of the research and/or analytical effort must be performed by the proposing firm, and for Phase II, a minimum of one-half of the research and/or analytical effort must be performed by the proposing firm. 

Can a federal agency or employee of a federal agency be a principal investigator, sub-contractor, or consultant on an SBIR contract? 

No.  The SBIR program was set up to provide money to small businesses, not back to the Federal Government or to a federal employee.  If work needs to be provided by a federal employee, it will be provided under a separate vehicle and with non-SBIR funds. 

What is the difference between SBIR solicitations and the SBIR Pre-Solicitation Announcement? 

SBIR solicitations are specific Requests for Proposals released by the Federal agencies participating in the program which may result in the award of Phase I SBIR funding agreements.  SBIR Pre-Solicitation Announcements, released by SBA, contain pertinent data on SBIR solicitations that are about to be released by the participating Federal agencies. 

How does the Small Business Administration define “small business concern” for the purposes of the SBIR program? 

It is defined as a concern that, on the date of award for both Phase I and Phase II funding agreements: is organized for profit, with a place of business located in the United States or which makes a significant contribution to the United States economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials, or labor; is in the legal form of an individual proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, joint venture, association, trust or cooperative, except that where the form is a joint venture there can be no more than 49 percent participation by foreign business entities in the joint venture; is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are citizens of, or permanent resident aliens in, the United States; and has, including its affiliates, not more than 500 employees. 

Common Causes for Administrative Rejection of NOAA SBIR Applications
The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) provides instructions for submitting a complete NOAA SBIR Phase I application. Listed below are some causes for rejection of applications. Avoiding these errors will allow your application to be evaluated and considered for award.
Non-responsive to Subtopics
The Technical Content portion of an application must respond to one of the subtopics in the NOFO. 
Missing Cover Sheet
A completed Cover Sheet must be included.
Over Budget
NOAA's maximum Phase I award amount is $150,000.
Missing Budget Narrative
In addition to the applicant’s budget provided on the SF-424A, the budget must be fully described in a Budget Narrative.
Missing SBC Registration
A copy of the Company Registration confirmation from must be included.
Missing Data Management Plan
The Data Management Plan is required.
Missing Proposal
In addition to all forms and registrations, the Technical Content portion of the application must be included. 

Where can I go for further information on how I get started or if there is other assistance available? 

Information can be obtained from SBA Office of Technology by dialing: (202) 205-6450, or by visiting the SBA SBIR/STTR website.  

To receive information on other SBA programs, please contact your local SBA office or call the SBA Answer Desk: 1-800-8-ASK-SBA.


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