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SBIR/STTR grants: Helping you commercialize your ideas

Research Development
May 25, 2022

Stimulate technological innovation for small businesses. What's more, this opportunity has potential for commercialization!

In order “to bridge the gap between performance of basic science and commercialization of resulting innovations,” the Small Business Administration (SBA) created the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and  Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. While the SBIR encourages domestic small businesses to engage in research and development with the potential for commercialization, the STTR extends that mission, requiring small businesses to formally collaborate with a research institution, like ASU, in Phases I and II.

Participating agencies include the departments of agriculture, commerce (NIST and NOAA), defense, education, energy, health and human services, homeland security, and transportation, along with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, and NSF. Each agency administers their own three-phase program, as seen below.

ASU has two Certified SBIR Counselors who can assist you as you consider this program:

Note: For NSF, you will have to submit a project pitch before being invited to submit a proposal. Learn more about the process and content of your pitch here:

Phase I – Feasibility Study

Though small (they do not exceed $150k for one year), Phase I awards are critical for establishing the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of your proposed research (in collaboration with a small business). If the agency determines your collaboration met their quality and performance standards, you will be eligible to move to the next phase.

Phase II – Research and Development

Those selected for Phase II will be funded to continue efforts initiated in Phase I. Funding is based on the results achieved in Phase I and the scientific and technical merit and commercial potential of the Phase II project proposed. Awards typically do not exceed $1 million total costs over two years.

Phase III – Commercialization

At this phase, small business and research team collaborations commercialize the technology developed from research in the earlier phases. STTR does not fund Phase III. Some federal agencies follow through with non-STTR funded R&D or production contracts for products, processes, or services intended for use by the US government.

What do SBIR/STTR firms look like?

Companies must be for profit, US owned and operated, and under 500 people. They are primarily research and development organizations, both in what they do and in the staff they employ. Their sizes average nine employees, but as they get larger, they start employing dedicated product and business development personnel. No matter their size, they focus on research and development, not purchasing equipment and not commercializing a technology that has already been developed or one that has very low risk and only needs capital.

What makes a great SBIR/STTR proposal?

Strong proposals hit all of the evaluation criteria, providing clear details on how and why their approaches address the agencies’ needs, how the skills of their teams allow them to research science with the end goal of developing new technology, how their firms will move their ideas through the phases and commercialize the technology so that it’s beneficial to the funding agency.

Evaluation criteria addresses:

  • How well the proposal addresses the topic area
  • Skills of the investigating team
  • Potential to commercialize proposed research and technology developed from it

Entrepreneurial teams should understand their target agency’s needs and talk to program officers and topic authors before submitting a proposal.

Check out and take advantage of resources at ASU, such as Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E+I), who offers information, resources, and people to help you turn your ideas into reality, or the SkySong Innovations, ASU’s technology transfer corporation.

How do I apply for an SBIR/STTR grant? has an interactive inforgraphic explaining the entire process, including information on:

  • Determining eligibility
  • Proposal requirements
  • Opportunity identification
  • Opportunity location
  • Portal requirements
  • Portal review
  • Post award expectations

At the bottom of the infographic, you'll also find links to information about each federal agency's SBIR program.

Note: ASU faculty should speak about SBIR applications with their Research Advancement professional. Due to allocation of effort, faculty members are sometimes constrained in being named as PI on applications.