Small Business Questions & Answers


Filed under Start Up

Ask About SBIR/STTR Grants

by Seeking Support | May 25, 2012

Subject :Business Resources

Dear Toolkit,

How can a small business owner learn about the SBIR/STTR Grant and Contract Program. . .including how to apply for (and hopefully win) this funding?

Seeking Support

Dear Seeking,

First let me translate the acronyms for those who may not be familiar with these very special funding resources. SBIR stands for the Small Business Innovation Research program and STTR is used to represent Small Business Technology Transfer program.

These programs collectively provide almost $2 billion a year to small businesses and university affiliates for research and development in a wide range of scientific and technical areas. The SBIR program funds high-risk projects at the earliest stages of development--before companies can attract venture capital--and works with small businesses through that development and on into the actual commercialization of their product.

The very best way to glean this information would be to personally attend a National SBIR/STTR Conference, which are usually offered three times a year. Check out this link for general information as well as this web site (, supported by a contract with the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Other federal departments sponsoring SBIR programs include Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, HHS, EPA, Transportation and NASA. These government agencies issue an SBIR solicitation once or twice a year, depending on the size of the particular agency's budget, describing its R&D needs and inviting R&D proposals. STTR program agencies differ slightly.

Only small, for-profit, American-owned, independently operated businesses can apply under the program. (To be considered "small" under SBIR, the business must have 500 or fewer employees, including all affiliates and/or subsidiaries.) In addition, the principal researcher must be employed by the business.

Thanks for asking about these very specialized but valuable funding programs.