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Brainstorming National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) SBIR Success

The NOAA’s SBIR program awards grants to small businesses that propose innovative solutions to challenges spanning the ocean, land, and even space.

A part of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) offers a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This program awards grants for technologies that further the department’s mission to protect the public and preserve the environment.

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Commerce can serve to inspire the greatest minds this country has to offer. This is made clear by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC)—which creates the conditions for economic growth and opportunity—and expressed particularly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—a bureau within the DoC that offers the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. 

What Does NOAA SBIR Stand For?

NOAA SBIR stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Small Business Innovation Research program. It’s a highly competitive, merit-based grant program that encourages small businesses to engage in federal research and development (R&D) with the goal of prototyping and eventually deploying commercially viable products or services.

The NOAA keeps the public informed of environmental changes. This includes daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings, and climate monitoring, along with fisheries management, coastal restoration, and a marine commerce support system. The federal government’s NOAA SBIR program focuses on developing innovations in these areas.

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What Is the NOAA Technology Partnerships Office (TPO)?

The NOAA Technology Partnerships Office (TPO) is the management arm of the NOAA’s SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. For both programs, the TPO facilitates the successful commercialization of innovative technologies that support the NOAA’s mission and grow the country’s economy.

Each of the Navy’s participating SYSCOM missions boasts its own SBIR budget and unique guidelines, particularly for Phase II of the programs. One of the Navy’s SYSCOMs, the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is responsible for administering the SBIR program, dividing the solicitations into groups representing the needs of each SYSCOM.

Ultimately, the TPO guides the NOAA’s SBIR grant program by managing scientific and technological innovations, coordinating strategic, public-private partnerships, and investing in small business research and development.

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What Is the NOAA Mission?

The NOAA’s mission—specifically with SBIR—is to foster technology that enables us to better understand our natural world and protect its precious resources. This mission extends beyond borders and includes global weather and climate, which puts NOAA SBIR participants in the unique position of working with like-minded partners around the world.

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What Are the Different Mission Areas of the NOAA SBIR?

When it comes to developing mission-oriented products and services, the NOAA has several areas of interest. Become familiar with these research areas before submitting your application for an NOAA SBIR grant.

Climate and Weather

  • Climate Program
    • The Climate Program Office organizes its efforts into three divisions: Earth System Science and Modeling, Climate and Societal Interactions, and Communication, Education, and Engagement. These divisions work in tandem to enhance our ability to make informed decisions about the climate. 
  • Weather Program
    • The Weather Program Office works closely with the National Weather Service to develop and transition weather research to improve knowledge about tropical cyclones, severe storms, extreme precipitation, air pollution, and social science—and to integrate weather, water, and climate forecasting and mitigation.
  • Severe Storms and Hurricane Research
    • The National Severe Storms Laboratory serves the nation by working to improve the lead time and accuracy of severe weather warnings and forecasts. The Hurricane Research Division focuses specifically on hurricanes, coastal ecosystems, and oceans. 

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  • Earth System Research and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Research
    • The Earth System Research Laboratories generate experimental weather and climate products to provide a broad range of environmental information services. The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory focuses on understanding the physical, dynamical, chemical and biogeochemical processes governing the behavior of the various ecosystems.

Oceans, Coasts, and Fisheries

  • Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing Program
    • The Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing Program provides and supports high-quality global ocean observations and research to improve scientific understanding and inform society about the ocean’s role in environmental change.
  • Ocean Exploration and Research
    • NOAA Ocean Exploration researches the world’s oceans and delivers oceanic information to strengthen the economy, health, and security of the country.
  • Fisheries Research and Aquaculture Program
    • Fisheries Research provides science-based solutions for the conservation and management of sustainable fisheries, marine mammals, endangered species, and their habitats. The Aquaculture Program addresses the technical and scientific barriers of marine aquaculture and provides scientific information for management.

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  • Oceans and Coasts
    • The National Ocean Service provides data, tools, and services that support coastal economies and their contribution to the national economy. This includes safe and efficient transportation, risk reduction, and stewardship efforts. 
  • Great Lakes Environmental Research
    • Great Lakes Environmental Research explores the dynamic environments and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and coastal regions to provide information for resource use and management decisions that lead to safe and sustainable ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human communities.
  • Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean Research
    • These programs focus their efforts on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, making critical observations and conducting research to advance our knowledge of how oceans interact with the earth, atmosphere, ecosystems, and climate.

Satellites and Remote Sensing

  • NOAA Satellites
    • Led by the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, this area investigates instrument performance, mission costs, and business models. It also evaluates new technologies through analysis, testing, and demonstrations.

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Charting and Surveying

  • Charts and Surveys
    • The Office of Coast Survey provides navigation products and services that ensure safe and efficient maritime commerce on America’s oceans and coastal waters and in the Great Lakes.
  • Tides and Currents
    • Consisting of oceanographers, field technicians, engineers, and information systems experts, this area is the authoritative source for tides, water levels, currents, and other coastal oceanographic and meteorological information.

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  1. Citizen Science: Outlines a path for the agency to engage the public in support of key mission areas.
  2. Data: Accelerates the use of data across the agency, maximizes openness and transparency, delivers on mission, and stewards resources while protecting quality, integrity, security, privacy, and confidentiality.
  3. Cloud Computing: Adopts and utilizes cloud services to modernize the NOAA’s IT environment.
  4. Uncrewed Systems: Expands the collection and utilization of critical, high-accuracy, and time-sensitive data by increasing the application and use of uncrewed aircraft and marine systems. 
  5. Artificial Intelligence: Refines the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in every NOAA mission area by improving the efficiency, effectiveness, and coordination of AI development and usage across the agency.
  6. ‘Omics: Improves the ability to monitor and understand the biological communities of the oceans and the Great Lakes.

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Like SBIR programs offered by other government agencies, requirements must be met to apply for a NOAA SBIR grant. To be eligible, small businesses must:

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  • Be American-owned and independently operated.
  • Hold for-profit status.
  • Have 500 employees or less, including affiliates.
  • Include a principal investigator employed (at least 51%) by the applying small business.
  • Complete a minimum of two thirds of the work for Phase I and half of the work for Phase II.
  • Perform all the work in the U.S.

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How Do I Apply for an NOAA SBIR Grant?

To apply for an NOAA SBIR grant, first develop a groundbreaking, innovative research idea that can be commercialized. From there, learn about eligibility, proposal requirements, and other important details. For a step-by-step guide through this SBIR application process, follow the federal government’s roadmap for applicants.

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Who Are the NOAA SBIR Program Contacts?

You can email about the NOAA SBIR program. You can also join the department’s mailing list and follow the department on Twitter.

To find NOAA contacts in a particular research area, visit this communications page.

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What Are the NOAA SBIR Topics?

NOAA SBIR topics correspond with the NOAA Next Generation Strategic Plan. Current topics include:

  • Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Planning
  • Weather-Ready Nation
  • Healthy Oceans
  • Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • ‘Omics
  • Blue Technologies and Uncrewed Systems

*Topic areas change frequently and should be checked for updates on a regular basis.

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Are There NOAA SBIR Phase II Award Success Stories?

It’s no surprise that the NOAA SBIR program has generated a lot of excitement within the scientific community. That enthusiasm stems from success stories about the many small businesses that have been awarded grants for their research and development.

Company: Creare LLC

Phase II Award: $399,920.38

New Hampshire-based Creare developed an open-source water quality monitoring system that is both easy to use and inexpensive. The system incorporates a wireless sensor along with a cloud-based data repository. During Phase I, they developed a prototype of the system and demonstrated it to environmental researchers and water quality experts. During Phase II, Creare finalized development and validation of the system and used the system in a pilot citizen science water quality monitoring study.

Company: Forever Oceans Corporation

Phase II Award: $399,497

Commercial marine aquaculture operators face many operational hazards, including disease, predators, husbandry operations, and environmental changes. Most of these risks are identified through constant surveillance and physical presence at a farm site; however, human observation of risk factors is expensive, slow, and sometimes ineffective. Sensors can monitor individual environmental parameters, but comprehensive monitoring of all operational risks is currently impractical or cost-prohibitive. Hawaii-based Forever Oceans developed an inexpensive tool, CERBERUS (Camera-based Examination of Risk via Behavioral Evaluation with Remote Underwater Surveillance), which uses low-cost hardware and intelligent software processing to detect and alert operators to the presence of operational hazards. 

Company: Metron, Incorporated

Phase II Award: $399,981.17

Virginia-based Metron designed and implemented an efficient, scalable, end-to-end prototype system for collecting, storing, and viewing mariner weather observations: the Mariner Report App (MARApp). This mobile application transforms smartphones and tablets at sea into forward geospatial/environmental sensors. It can take weather measurements from sensors built into a mobile device, external sensors connected via Bluetooth, or manual input by the user. Metron will deliver a robust, intuitive, and secure end-to-end capability for marine weather reporting, data aggregation and fusion, customized alerts, and environmental model validation that will greatly improve mariner safety in coastal and inland water areas.

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What Are the NOAA SBIR Accounting Requirements?

All applications submitted to the NOAA SBIR program must include an impeccable accounting system, complete with cost data, procedures for pricing prototyping requirements, and time recordkeeping. This is an extremely competitive program; as such, any accounting systems that fall short will be disqualified.

Some of the specific accounting requirements for SBIR include:

  • Proper segregation of direct costs from indirect costs
  • A robust timekeeping system
  • Exclusion of unallowable costs
  • Identification of cost by contract line item
  • Accumulation of costs under general ledger control

Team 80 handles all NOAA SBIR accounting concerns. With the proper accounting tools and systems—along with a deep expertise in the many nuances of the SBIR process—we can help your team focus on the scientific challenges you will face in developing a robust and successful NOAA SBIR project.

Team 80 Director of Governmental Accounting Ben Smith

Ben Smith

Director of Governmental Accounting

Ben has worked in and around small businesses for most of his career. But surprisingly, his professional path started in food service as a chef, not accounting. In 2009 he opened his own catering business. The accounting duties for the catering company fell on Ben’s shoulders, and that was when he realized accounting was a much better fit! Ben is passionate about helping small business owners make their companies successful and brings a highly varied set of experiences to the table to help in this pursuit. When he’s not crunching numbers, he can be found hanging out with his wife and their Miniature Pinscher Milo or pursuing his other passions, which include skiing, windsurfing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, playing guitar, and riding dirt bikes.

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The Top 20 Questions People Ask About SBIR Phase II

SBIR Phase II focuses on the development, demonstration, and delivery of your small business’ proposed innovation.

Phase II of the federal government’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program continues the research and development (R&D) initiated in SBIR Phase I. Funding received in Phase II is based on the scientific, technical, and commercial potential of the proposed project. All SBIR grants are federally funded.

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The journey through the three phases of the government’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is long and arduous, no matter which federal agency you’re courting for funds.

But when all your hard work pays off, and you receive your funding at the end of a phase, there’s nothing sweeter!

However, there’s no time to rest on your laurels. As soon as you make it through Phase I, it’s time to put your team into high gear and get to work on Phase II.

The second of three phases in your SBIR effort, Phase II sees the continuation of the research and development (R&D) you started in the first phase. It’s crucial that you press on with your efforts—don’t fall behind now when you’re so close to the finish line!

To help make this process as fruitful as possible, we’ve gathered the top 20 questions people ask about SBIR Phase II.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is SBIR Phase II?

Let’s start at the very foundation of SBIR Phase II, the basic definition.

In the second phase, your team takes the R&D that was initiated in phase I to the next level.

Phase II is the stage that truly gives life to your business, and more importantly, your technology. Phase II awards are given based on the results of the research and tests conducted in Phase I and are intended to fund the creation of an actual, workable prototype.

In the simplest terms, Phase II sees your innovative idea become an actual product.

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  1. How Much Funding is Awarded in SBIR Phase II?

The funds you receive in your Phase II award are based mainly on the results you achieved in Phase I and depend on which federal agency you’re working with.

It’s entirely possible that you could receive more than $1 million in a Phase II award, though the average is roughly around $920,000.

For example, the Department of Defense’s Navy awards funding that typically ranges from $500,000 to $1,700,000.

  1. How Long is Phase II of SBIR?

The SBIR Phase II award period typically lasts up to 24 months.

  1. What are the Eligibility Requirements for SBIR Phase II?

First and foremost, only small businesses that have received an SBIR Phase I award are eligible for SBIR Phase II awards.

And while each federal agency might have different technical requirements for Phase II, the general requirements for eligibility mirror those of Phase I and are as follows:

  • The small business must operate in the U.S., outside of a small number of subcontractors or consultants.
  • The company must have fewer than 500 employees.
  • The company must be majority-owned by U.S. citizens.

  1. How Does the Small Business Administration Define a “Small Business Concern” for the SBIR program?

As stated above, only small businesses can strive for an SBIR Phase II award. But what is a “small business concern?” The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines it as such:

  • Organized for-profit

  • Located in the U.S., operating primarily within the U.S., or makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through taxes or makes use of American products, materials, or labor.

  • Legally considered an individual proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, joint venture, association, trust, or cooperative. If it is a joint venture, there can be no more than 49 percent participation by foreign business entities.

  • At least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are citizens of, or permanent resident aliens in, the U.S.

  • Has no more than 500 employees, including affiliates

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  1. What Federal Agencies Participate in SBIR Phase II?

The same 11 agencies that award funds in the first phase also participate in SBIR Phase II.

  1. Can a Small Business receive an SBIR Phase II Award from an Agency Other Than The One That Issued The Phase I Award?

Yes! Any small business that receives a Phase I award from one federal agency may receive a Phase II award from another agency.

This happens through a written determination that the topics of the awards are the same, and both agencies report the awards to the SBA.

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  1. Does SBIR Phase II Require a Commercialization Plan?

Yes! The SBIR Phase II award process requires a consideration of the proposal’s commercial potential. 

This includes the possibility to transition the technology to private sector applications, government applications, or government contractor applications.

Commercial potential in SBIR II may be demonstrated through:

  • The small business’ record of successfully commercializing other research.
  • Phase II funding commitments from the private sector or other non-SBIR funding sources.
  • General indicators of the commercial potential of the innovation.

  1. Can I Skip SBIR Phase I and Go Directly to Phase II?

No. The results of your SBIR Phase I work determine whether or not there will be a Phase II to continue your efforts. Only Phase I awardees are eligible for a Phase II award.

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  1. What is a “Direct-to-Phase II” SBIR Award?

Though you cannot “skip” Phase I and go directly to Phase II, if you already have a working prototype, there is a pathway known as “Direct-to-Phase II.”

This pathway is for small businesses that have already performed Phase I research through other funding sources. However, this is not available for the STTR program.

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  1. What is The “Fast-Track” Mechanism in SBIR Phase II?

Presently available in solicitations at various participating government agencies, the Fast-Track mechanism expedites the decision and award process for SBIR Phase II funding.

This is mainly for scientifically meritorious proposals with a high potential for commercialization. Fast-Track incorporates a submission and review process in which both Phase I and Phase II proposals are submitted and reviewed together.

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  1. What is the Difference Between Fast-Track and Direct-to-Phase II?

The primary difference between Fast-Track and Direct-to-Phase II applications is the timing of the Phase I project work. 

Phase I work is the first component of the project period in a Fast-Track. Direct-to-Phase II bypasses this step.

Instead, Direct-to-Phase II applicants must have performed the equivalent of Phase I research before applying.

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  1. What is SBIR Phase IIB?

When you renew your Phase II application for another round of funding, it’s known as SBIR Phase IIB. 

Offered at some federal agencies such as the Department of Health & Human Services or the Department of Defense, Phase IIB is mainly for R&D proposals that need a long time and more significant funds to get from theory to prototype.

  1. What is the Difference between STTR and SBIR Phase II?

The significant difference between the SBIR and STTR Phase II is that the STTR requires the small business to forge a partnership with a nonprofit research institution to collaborate on R&D in Phase II.

In both SBIR and STTR, the award goes to the small business, which is the primary contractor or awardee, while the nonprofit research institution takes on the role of a subcontractor.

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  1. Can I switch from the SBIR or the STTR Programs after Receiving Phase I Funding?

Yes! SBIR and STTR applicants can switch programs when they arrive at Phase II or Phase IIB to any active and open SBIR or STTR solicitation.

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  1. How Do You Apply for SBIR Phase II?

Small businesses can submit an SBIR Phase II proposal anytime between six months and two years after the start date of their Phase I award.

If you don’t know the start date of your Phase I award, it can be found on your Phase I award letter.

Your team’s principal investigator must remain in contact with the appropriate government agency to stay up-to-date, as well as to inform the agency of any potential roadblocks.

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  1. Can I Change the Title of my Proposal Between SBIR Phase I and Phase?

Yes! You can submit an SBIR Phase II proposal with a different title than Phase I. Just be sure to include the Phase I award number on all documents you submit for review.

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  1. Who Decides SBIR Phase II Proposal Submission Dates?

Awardees must establish proposal submission dates for Phase II. However, federal agencies may negotiate mutually acceptable Phase II proposal submission dates with each awardee.

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  1. What is the SBIR’s Federal And State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program?

The FAST Partnership Program funds organizations with the expressed purpose of increasing the number of SBIR and STTR awards from women, socially/economically disadvantaged individuals, and small businesses in underrepresented areas (typically, rural states). 

This is accomplished through outreach, technical and business assistance, and financial support.  

Go to the FAST Partnership Program web portal to learn more about funding and check out a state-by-state listing of current FAST awardees.

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  1. What are the SBIR Phase II Accounting Requirements?

Once a small business is awarded an SBIR Phase II contract or grant, the federal government has much higher expectations regarding tracking time, costs, and the overall accounting system. 

Simply put: There’s a lot of money on the line during Phase II, so the government will scrutinize every dollar and cent. What’s more, many SBIR/STTR Phase II awards are cost-plus-fixed-fee (CPFF) instead of a firm-fixed-price (FFP)—this designation presents a greater risk to the federal government.

Along every step of the way in SBIR Phase II, the government must be assured that the small business possesses an accounting system that can calculate indirect rates, separate direct from indirect costs, and isolate unallowable costs from allowable ones. 

And finally, your accounting system must be able to report how much has been billed on a contract and how much is still yet to be billed.

For a small business already stretched thin working on R&D for their innovative idea and starting to think about commercial applications, keeping the accounting side straight and clear can be a formidable task. 

Team 80 steps in as your partner in this accounting process, taking on the workload while staying in constant contact with your team from the start of your journey, all the way to the realization of your goal.

If you’ve been awarded an SBIR Phase II Grant learn more about Team 80’s SBIR and STTR Accounting Services. 

Team 80 CEO Sarah Sinicki

Sarah Sinicki

Team 80 CEO

Sarah is a leader focused on serving small businesses in various industries. She has worked with a multitude of companies over the last 25 years and loves helping business owners find success. Sarah is genuinely committed to unburdening Team 80 clients so that they have the freedom to focus on their business. In her free time, you can find her spending time with her husband, two kids, and her Yorkies, Marley and Ziggy. When she is not helping business owners, you can find her in a Reb3l Groove class dancing it out. Sarah is also an avid Colorado Avalanche fan, so if you ever want to talk about hockey, she’s your gal.