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The Air Force Helms Innovative Programs with AFWERX SBIR

The U.S. Air Force powers innovation through AFWERX, a team of technological advisers that pilot the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

AFWERX is a U.S. Air Force and the Department of Defense (DoD) program that fosters small business technological innovation. Those innovations are funded via competition in the Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), encouraging startups to research and develop products and services.

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Entrepreneurs who pilot startups often encounter three significant obstacles:

  • Coming up with the cash to fund their project.
  • Finding the market to fit the product they’ve developed.
  • Landing their first paying customer.

But when those entrepreneurs are developing commercial technology meant for the Air Force, there’s one group that can accelerate the process of overcoming obstacles and help break the sound barrier of innovation.

The Air Force’s AFWERX team runs a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, awarding contracts to entrepreneurs who aim high.

What Does AFWERX SBIR Stand For?

The acronym AFWERX does not represent a phrase or name abbreviation; “AF” stands for “Air Force,” and “WERX” is shorthand for “work project.”

It represents a U.S. Air Force program that fosters a culture of innovation within the service.

AFWERX, a team of technology advisors within the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), seeks ground-breaking ideas and invests seed money to move projects from the laboratory into production.

The advisors accomplish this by overseeing the Air Force’s arm of the Department of Defense (DoD) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

As part of its effort to attract the best and brightest minds in technology, AFWERX hosts tech competitions, issues exploratory contracts to fund research and development, and matches startups with venture capital investors to spur paradigm-shifting ideas. AFWERX also includes sister organizations, including SOFWERX, MGMWERX, and DEFENSEWERX.



What is the AFWERX SBIR Mission?

First established in 2017 by the Secretary of the Air Force and reporting to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, AFWERX provides an environment conducive to thoughtful, deliberate, innovation.

Through open topic solicitations, small businesses can submit innovative solutions that have yet to be deployed in service to the DoD.

And we’re not only talking about developing wartime technology like fighter jets and bombers—the Air Force is a large and varied organization that requires a wide range of products in the medical field, construction, law enforcement, communications, energy, and more.

Essentially, any innovative technology that could be applied to a small city could have a use in the Air Force.

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What are AFVentures?

The Department of the Air Force’s commercial investment group, AFVentures, is a division of AFWERX that works to expand the number of small businesses working with the Air Force.

It accomplishes this by awarding small startups a development contract to help them survive the complex qualifying process for a defense contract.

Venture capital firms are often hesitant to work with companies that might not develop a high-margin product capable of quickly growing to produce a far greater return than the firm’s initial investment.

AFVentures levels the playing field, finding funding for startups through various programs—including Strategic Fund Increase, which sees AFVentures match a certain amount of funding already received by the startup via a private investor.

AFVentures give the DoD a window into the innovations outside of large contractors such as Raytheon and Boeing—helping the federal government tap into the valuable work being done to address nontraditional concerns, such as cyberwarfare.

Since it launched in 2018, AFVentures has awarded $710 million in contracts to various small business startups. Meanwhile, through the Air Force SBIR/STTR program, AFVentures even found itself on the frontlines of the nation’s response to the COVID pandemic, gathering and deploying valuable ideas about how to battle the virus.

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Who is Eligible for AFWERX SBIR?

The SBIR/STTR programs affiliated with AFWERX share many of the eligibility requirements of other government agencies. These eligibility requirements are as follows:

SBIR

  • Must be a for-profit business
  • Must be based in the U.S.
  • Must have 500 or fewer employees
  • The Principal Investigator must be primarily employed (more than 50 percent) with the small business applicant

STTR

  • Must be a for-profit business
  • Must be based in the U.S.
  • Must partner with a U.S. research institution
  • Must be a formal cooperative research and development effort
  • At least 40 percent of the work must be performed by the small business, with 30 percent of the work performed by the partnering research institution.


AFWERX SBIR Phases

Like other SBIR programs across the federal landscape, AFWERX comprises two main phases for research and development (R&D) and one ancillary phase mainly for commercialization purposes.

AFWERX SBIR Phase I

Most AFWERX Phase I SBIR program funding is awarded in response to open topic Commercial Solution Openings. CSOs are used to acquire innovative commercial projects, with open topics inviting industries to propose solutions to Air Force problems. To view the issues for which the Air Force seeks solutions, check out the AFVentures Focus Areas for Phase I.

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How Much Funding is Awarded in AFWERX SBIR Phase I?

The Air Force describes its AFWERX Phase I SBIR program funding as “small bets,” doling out between 1,000 and 1,500 Phase I awards to the tune of $50,000 each.

 

How Long Is AFWERX SBIR Phase I?

Each AFWERX SBIR Phase I award of $50,000 covers three months.

AFWERX SBIR Phase II

Approximately a third of Air Force Phase I awards have what it takes to transition to Phase II, which AFWERX describes as “medium bets.”

How Much Funding is Awarded in AFWERX SBIR Phase II?

The “medium bets” placed by AFWERX can total up to $750,000 per small business.

 

How Long Is AFWERX SBIR Phase II?

Each AFWERX SBIR Phase II award of $750,000 covers 15 months of prototype development.

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Yes! While AFWERX does not always guarantee the availability of Direct-to-Phase II (D2P2) opportunities, it is a program that is currently being made available.

D2P2 allows AFWERX to award an SBIR Phase II award to a small business, regardless if that small business was awarded any Phase I funding.

This page from AFWERX AFVentures helps to answer D2P2 specific questions.

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These funding sources enable AFWERX to emphasize big-ticket contracts and are intended to help the small businesses substantially increase the dollar amount received in awarded funds.

Highly beneficial but often tricky to navigate, Supplemental Funding Pilot Programs through AFWERX typically appear in two forms, Strategic Funding Increase (STRATFI) and Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI). Additionally, each supplemental funding opportunity has its own requirements and funding amounts.

Both STRATFI and TACFI are intended for companies that have already won an SBIR/STTR Phase II award in the last three years. These companies become eligible to receive additional funding through these supplemental programs to scale their Phase II efforts further.

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One of AFWERX’s Supplemental Funding Pilot Programs, STRATFI awards are between $3 million and $15 million of SBIR funding and cover up to 48 months of performance.

A matching component requires that non-SBIR funding be put up to receive the award. For every $1 of SBIR/STTR funds, companies must also receive $2 of other government funds or $1 of additional government funds and $2 of private funds.

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What is the Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI)?

Another of AFWERX’s Supplemental Funding Pilot Programs, TACFI, awards amounts from $375,000 to $1.7 million and up to 24 months of activity. For every dollar of SBIR/STTR funds, companies must also receive at least $1 of other government funding (non-SBIR/STTR) or $1 of private funding.

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AFWERX Research Topics

“Research topics” refer to the many diverse technology categories small businesses could research in their SBIR program proposal. The technology categories include: 

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Administration

  • Administrative Services
  • Dress and Appearance
  • Health/Physical Fitness
  • Personnel
  • Training/Learning

General Areas

  • Manufacturing
  • Advanced Materials
  • Base Infrastructure
  • Energy and Power
  • Energy and Efficiency
  • Maintenance

Information Technology

  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Augmented, mixed, and virtual reality
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Cyber Security
  • Data
  • Data analytics
  • Electronics/Microelectronics
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Information Technology
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Robotics

Mission Readiness

  • Aeromedical Evacuation
  • Air Refueling
  • Autonomy and Autonomous systems
  • Battle Management
  • Cargo Operations
  • Communications
  • Emergency Response
  • Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR)
  • Personnel Transportation
  • Physical Security/ Security Forces

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What is the Air Force SBIR Open Topic?

The federal agencies participating in the SBIR program present a set collection of topics they want you to research and develop into products and services.

While the Air Force takes part in this type of SBIR program solicitation, they also take a unique approach. 

The U.S. Air Force, through AFWERX, allows organizations to propose solutions for their “open topic” research area. This open topic can be any commercially viable technology that the small business believes could be potentially useful to the Air Force. 

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Essentially, Open Topic allows small businesses to solve problems that the Air Force doesn’t know they have.

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AFWERX SBIR Program Success Stories

Though the process of landing an AFWERX SBIR award from the DoD can be grueling, there are plenty of success stories to inspire you along the way.

Lickenbrock Technologies

Total SBIR Investment: $895,000

Missouri-based Lickenbrock Technologies developed Fast Expectation-Maximization Ordered Subsets (FEMOS), a reconstruction algorithm that creates scans with greater resolution and contrast than commercial computed tomography (CT) scans.

Funding through the Air Force AFWERX SBIR program, an investment of $895,000, helped Lickenbrock accelerate the speed of its algorithm to seven times the original speed, significantly reducing the amount of time it takes to finish a scan. 

The SBIR investment improved the quality of the reconstructions and diversified the variety of specimens the system is capable of scanning.

With further development, Lickenbrock Technologies expects $500,000 to $1 million per year in commercial, industrial use profits. 

Specular Theory

Total SBIR Investment: $1.5 million

With SBIR funding, California-based Specular Theory developed a next-generation virtual reality flight simulation training system explicitly designed to guide pilots in the exact science of in-air refueling. 

Traditional air refueling training costs the Air Force thousands of dollars per flight and requires at least two aircraft and two full crews. 

This is where Specular Theory saw an opportunity for improvement. 

The virtual training program reduces the number of failures and helps reduce the number of times pilots must practice in real aircraft. As a result, the cost savings in that area alone are substantial. 

Traditional air refueling training costs the Air Force thousands of dollars per flight, which requires at least two aircraft and two full crews. 

Students often require extra flights to gain proficiency, adding cost and time. This virtual training program is connected to The Air Force SBIR funding allowing Specular Theory to adapt its existing products into an immersive student experience not typically available in consumer applications. 

SBIR invested close to $1.5 million into the project, while the product has pulled in $5 million in Phase III contracts for Specular Theory. 

iNovex Information Systems

Total SBIR Investment: $899,154

The Air Force’s SBIR program supported Maryland-based iNovex Information Systems in its effort to develop an open-source data collaboration platform known as Mobi-SRE. This platform pulls together and analyzes data for the weapon system design acquisition lifecycle. 

With this development, users can better use pre-existing data, accelerate the process, reduce errors, and increase access to more comprehensive and consistent information. 

This reduces the time it takes to get advanced weapon technology into the hands of the boots on the ground—or in the air. 

iNovex Information Systems utilized the investment to research the specific Air Force needs and limitations. Then, they used that information to specifically build and expand the data platform to address those problems. 

The Air Force SBIR invested $899,154 into the project, and the company has received close to $1.5 million in Phase III contracts. As a result, it is positioned to save the Air Force an estimated $5 million.

Are you a small business owner with innovative ideas? Get your AFWERX accounting in order with Team 80.

Get A Free Consultation for Your AFWERX SBIR Accounting Services
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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.


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Federal Funding Assistance: SBIR Resources by State

Entrepreneurs working toward an SBIR award can access a wealth of resources in every state. 

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are presented by the federal government through a collection of 11 agencies and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBIR/STTR programs award capital to small businesses to fund the research and development of a product or service and marketing efforts. 

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Small businesses often need a boost from like-minded organizations—an infusion of wisdom from professionals who have been there, done that, and prospered. 

This is especially true for entrepreneurs diving into the competitive world of government grants and contracts. 

Programs like Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), two federal efforts that fund ground-breaking ideas across an array of projects, become attainable when you’ve got the support of vital resources.

With so many innovative minds spread throughout the country, these resources are available in every state. 

It coalesces into a comprehensive small business assistance network, from individualized business advisement and technical assistance to in-person counseling and training services. 

But what agencies offer SBIR/STTR support, and how can you, a small entrepreneurial business, receive the help you need to advance your innovation? 

Let’s take care of business and find out.

Resources Available to SBIR/STTR Applicants

In your quest for SBIR/STTR funding, you’re likely to encounter more than a few obstacles.

These barriers to project completion could be a shortage of capital, knowledge gaps in the application process, general business understanding, or a slew of other shortcomings.

It’s important to remember that you are not alone—not only do most small business people face similar challenges but there are pros out there who want to help you!

In this article, we’ll cover state-by-state resources while focusing on these specific programs:



What is the SBDC?

SBDC stands for Small Business Development Centers, a collection of programs spread throughout the country that provide training and counseling to small businesses and informational tools to support business start-ups and existing business expansion. 

Depending on where your business is located, you could have numerous SBDC programs at your disposal. To find the local SBDC serving your region, simply enter your zip code into the search bar on this page presented by the Small Business Administration. 

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Is SBDC the Same as SBA?

While not precisely the same, the SBDC is a partner program of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

This partnership fosters small businesses and jobs by providing educational resources to business owners and those looking to start a business. 

Meanwhile, the centers are typically hosted by colleges, universities, private sector organizations, and state economic development agencies.

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How Can SBDC Help My Small Business?

As previously mentioned, SBIR and STTR programs are incredibly competitive, and new entrepreneurs might feel overwhelmed by the guidelines and protocols that must be followed to obtain funding. That’s where the SBDC comes in. 

SBDC programs serve as an invaluable resource for business owners, passing along wisdom in the form of professional, high-quality, individualized business advisement and technical assistance. 

This assistance is made available to existing small businesses and pre-venture entrepreneurs. Simply put, SBDCs help you solve problems.

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And as you know, small business life is rife with problems, and SBDC can advise you in areas including:

  • Access to Capital
  • Development and Exchange of New Technologies
  • Business Planning Improvement
  • Strategy Development
  • Operations Streamlining
  • Financial Management
  • Personnel Administration

  • Marketing Expertise
  • Export Assistance
  • Sales Deployment
  • Management Improvement
  • Increased Productivity
  • Growth & Expansion
  • Overall Innovation

Professionally inspired advancement in all areas can significantly increase your chances of SBIR program success!

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What are Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC)?

Government contracts can be some of the most lucrative business deals that any entrepreneur can hope to obtain. Federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense, offer tremendous financial opportunities, buying all types of products and services—in both large and small quantities—directly from small businesses that develop innovations through the SBIR.

Part of a Federal Contracting Assistance effort managed by the SBA, Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) lend a hand to small businesses by providing technical assistance in selling products or services to federal, state, and local governments.

Along with that overall mission, PTACs can help you:

  • Determine if your business is ready for federal contracting
  • Prepare you to register in the proper places
  • Measure your eligibility for small business certifications
  • Assist in the research of previous contracting opportunities

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Guided by Procurement Center Representatives (PCRs), small businesses can win federal contracts by learning procurement strategies before the agreements are even announced to the public.

PCRs can also conduct market research, assist with payment issues, and serve as your guiding light through the entire contracting process.

You can find your state’s local PTAC by entering your zip code in the search bar on this page.

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What is Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP)?

Business development resources also extend to other specific small business sectors, including U.S. manufacturers.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program consists of a nationwide network of centers that provide manufacturers with the tools necessary to enhance growth, reduce costs, improve productivity, and expand capacity.

MEPs are everywhere, with more than 440 locations spread throughout all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Each center delivers customized services and resources calibrated to match the needs of individual small- and mid-sized manufacturers.

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MEP programs help businesses focus on:

  • Lean and Continuous Improvement 
  • Growth and Innovation
  • Supply Chain Issues
  • Keeping Operations in America
  • Sustainability
  • Technology Acceleration
  • Workforce Challenges

Check out the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) MEP resource page for contact information and economic impacts from all 50 states and Puerto Rico. 

Manufacturers can also utilize the NIST interactive map to find a local MEP center or view the MEP Center quick list for phone numbers, email addresses, websites, and more.

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What is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Proof-of-Concept Center (POCC)?

A Proof-of-Concept Center is part of a more extensive Proof-of-Concept Network (POCN) powered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

The network engages academic innovators to support the conversion of scientific discoveries into actual medical products, while training the biomedical workforce to be globally competitive in technology development and entrepreneurship. 

Spanning more than 100 universities in 34 states and Puerto Rico, the POCN is manifested through three programs: NIH Centers for Accelerated Innovations (NCAI), Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs (REACH), and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ STTR Regional Technology Transfer Accelerator Hubs for IDeA States

As of December 2021, the POCN has worked with 386 projects by more than 100 startups, resulting in close to 50 SBIR/STTR awards and $1.58 billion in funding. 

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These additional state-by-state resources include:

  • Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program
  • SBA Growth Accelerator
  • SBA Regional Innovation Cluster
  • Build-to-Scale (B2S)
  • MBDA Business Center

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These additional state-by-state resources include:

  • Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program
  • SBA Growth Accelerator
  • SBA Regional Innovation Cluster
  • Build-to-Scale (B2S)
  • MBDA Business Center

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To find local SBIR/STTR assistance in your state, access the search functions presented by the SBA on this page or find your state below.

SBIR STATE RESOURCES


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.


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Prime Information Regarding the USDA SBIR Program

SBIR awards granted by the USDA give small businesses the power to enhance American agriculture. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is one of 11 federal agencies participating in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Through SBIR, the USDA offers competitively awarded grants to eligible and qualified small businesses that develop products, services, and processes to address problems in agriculture and provide significant public benefits.

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In facilitating comprehensive accounting services for a slew of small businesses, Team 80 has come across many important initiatives that aim to better the lives of countless individuals. This front-row seat to meaningful innovation is one of the many perks we enjoy while crunching numbers for clients.

The strides made by startups awarded funds through the USDA’s SBIR program are truly impressive—altering the very landscape of American agriculture, the environment, rural communities, and rural healthcare.

Throughout this article, we’ll examine the finer details of the USDA program and tell you everything you need to know to apply. We’ll also highlight some of the most remarkable awardees.

What Does USDA SBIR Stand For?

USDA SBIR stands for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the USDA’s SBIR program awards projects that focus on bolstering American agriculture while protecting the environment and strengthening rural communities and the healthcare that keeps them safe.

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What is the USDA SBIR Mission?

The USDA is one of 11 federal agencies participating in the SBIR program, which awards grants and funds to eligible small businesses. The USDA seeks to select qualified small companies with proposals for high-quality, advanced research projects through the SBIR program. The research must relate to scientific opportunities and issues within agriculture, with the ultimate goal of benefiting the public.

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The USDA’s SBIR program stimulates technological innovations in the private sector, strengthens the role of small businesses in federal research projects, increases the potential commercialization of innovations, and fosters the advancement of women-owned and socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses.

Ultimately, the USDA wants these SBIR projects to provide solutions for American agricultural efforts and society. This is facilitated by combining science, research, production, and marketing in a way that transforms innovative ideas into practical realities.

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USDA SBIR Phase I

Open to all eligible small businesses, Phase I establishes the first step in the USDA’s SBIR process. The objective is to determine the scientific feasibility of the small business idea and map out its commercial potential.

How Much is the USDA SBIR Phase I Award?

The funding limit for the USDA SBIR Phase I award is $100,000.

The duration of the USDA SBIR Phase I is eight months.

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USDA SBIR Phase II

Open only to previous Phase I awardees, USDA SBIR Phase II continues the research and development established in Phase I while scaling up the efforts and funds awarded. Phase II also allows the small business to begin planning commercialization and implementing the technology, product, or service.

The funding limit for the USDA Phase II award is $600,000.

How Do I Apply for a USDA SBIR Award?

To apply for a USDA SBIR award, you must first establish whether or not your company is eligible.  Eligibility comes down to your company’s size, ownership, and control requirements—all established by the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Guide to SBIR/STTR Program Eligibility. The requirements include:

  • Must be a small business in the U.S. with no more than 500 employees, including affiliates.
  • It must be a for-profit business.
  • Must be more than 50 percent owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens.
  • The bulk of the ownership and work must reside with the grant recipient, though you may have business partners and contract out a minor share of the work.

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Move forward with your application process by registering your business on the SBIR/STTR Company Registry. This gives you access to the SBIR.gov system and will provide you with a unique control ID for all of your submissions.

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What are the USDA Research Topics?

The USDA addresses various agricultural, environmental, community, and health concerns, represented by specific SBIR research areas. Research topics include:

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  • Forests and Related Resources
    • Projects related to forests and grasslands’ health, diversity, and productivity. The main area of focus should be on sustaining forest resources, addressing the impact of climate change, developing value-added materials, and protecting existing ecosystems.

  • Plant Production and Protection — Biology
    • A biological approach to enhancing crop production and protection. Projects should aim to reduce the impact of harmful agents, advance plant improvement methods, and develop new food and specialty crops.

  • Plant Production and Protection — Engineering
    • An engineering approach to the same crop enhancement and protections mentioned above, this area utilizes economically and environmentally sound production, post-harvest, and storage systems. 

  • Animal Production and Protection
    • Supports the development of innovative technologies that assist agricultural concerns and animal producers to improve efficiency while preventing disease and outbreaks, conserving resources, and reducing production costs.

  • Conservation of Natural Resources
    • Focused on air, soil, and water, this area creates tech for conserving and protecting essential natural resources. Projects must work to sustain farm and forest productivity by reducing erosion, enhancing quality, developing irrigation techniques, reducing pollution, and promoting these transformative technologies. 

  • Food Science and Nutrition
    • Efforts in this area must develop products and processes related to what we eat and how it relates to health. Projects can work to improve processing and packaging methods for better quality and nutritional value, promote programs and products that increase the consumption and understanding of healthy foods, and reduce childhood obesity.

  • Rural and Community Development
    • Improve the economic vitality of rural communities and reduce poverty by conceptualizing and commercializing tech, products, processes, and services. In addition, projects should enhance the efficiency and equity of public and private investments, build a diversified workforce, and increase resilience to disasters. 

  • Aquaculture
    • Projects include a wide array of concerns related to ocean life, such as increasing reproductive efficiency and genetic improvement in fish and shellfish, enhancing animal health, food safety, production efficiency, cost-effective production of alternative proteins, and reducing water usage.

 

  • Biofuels and Biobased Products
    • Efforts should promote product usage through innovative technologies that increase bio-production from agriculture materials and provide new opportunities to diversify agriculture’s role in the raw materials industry. 

 

  • Small and Mid-Size Farms
    • Projects aimed at increasing the sustainability and profitability of farms and ranches through plant, animal, organic, and natural products. There are also opportunities to enhance farm safety, increase operational efficiency, and conserve natural resources. 

SBIR Phase I TABA

  • Phase I awardees can request an additional $6,500 through TABA. Applicants awarded a USDA SBIR Phase I grant will receive a contact from a USDA-funded vendor on what services are available and how to obtain those services at no cost to your business. If you select your own TABA provider, you must include this as “Other Direct Costs” in your budget. You must also have a detailed budget justification and a signed letter of commitment from the provider. 

SBIR Phase II TABA

  • Phase II awardees can request up to an additional $50,000 through TABA. Grant recipients in Phase II must select their own TABA vendor while also including the requested TABA amount in their budget as “Other Direct Costs” and provide a detailed budget justification and a signed letter of commitment from the vendor.

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Note: TABA funds may not be used for research and development (R&D) activities that the grant funds otherwise support. However, electing to use TABA will not take away from a company’s R&D budget. Instead, it is in addition to the USDA SBIR grant and can only be used for TABA services.

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The highly competitive nature of the SBIR program makes it a grueling process—but it’s this characteristic that also makes winning the award deeply gratifying. Over the years, USDA SBIR Phase II awardees have run the gamut from projects that enhance food safety and nutrition to projects that fortify agricultural efforts and animal protection. To give you a general idea of what it takes to receive a grant from the USDA, here are some past winners of the agency’s SBIR program Phase II.

Whole Trees, LLC

Answering the call by USDA officials to “develop new markets for forest byproducts that encourage healthy timber management,” Whole Trees, LLC created value from an abundant, near-waste byproduct of well-managed forests. The Wisconsin-based company utilized the $579,540 Phase II award to develop a process to use de-barked, un-milled whole timbers and proprietary steel connections as a cost-competitive and environmentally sound structural building material for columns, beams, and truss assemblies in place of steel, concrete, or milled lumber. The R&D led to an expanded supply chain, improved design values, associated cost reductions, and enhanced product safety, performance, and reliability.

Green Heron Tools

Thirty percent of U.S. farmworkers are women. However, farming tools have never been explicitly designed with women in mind. That all changed with Green Heron Tools, a woman-owned, Pennsylvania-based company that received SBIR Phase II awards totaling $532,157. Green Heron Tools developed a new line of ergonomically efficient garden tools to address the specific needs of women’s bodies. The Phase II award led to the development and commercialization of HERShoval, a safer, scientifically designed alternative to standard unisex tools and tools made smaller solely for aesthetic purposes.

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The USDA’s SBIR Directly Serves Citizens

Projects born from the USDA’s SBIR program seem geared explicitly toward addressing the overarching health of the average citizen and the day-to-day issues faced by America’s working farmers. It’s innovation with an immediate impact!

However, that impact can be dulled if you fall short of SBIR accounting requirements.

Like the SBIR programs across all federal agencies, the USDA boasts accounting rules and regulations that can seriously slow progress. The requirements are numerous and highly consequential, from the separation of direct and indirect costs to general ledger management to error-free timekeeping records.

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Team 80 has the experience necessary in the arena of government grants to make this process as headache-free as possible—giving you the bandwidth to focus on your innovation.

Get A Free Consultation for Your USDA SBIR 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.


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A Deep Dive Into The Navy SBIR Program

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program connects America’s naval departments to invaluable ideas and technologies.

Under the Department of Defense (DoD), the Navy makes funds available to small business entrepreneurs through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The Navy consists of multiple components known as System Commands or SYSCOM. These components focus on different areas of naval operations. 

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The Department of Defense (DoD) is one of 11 federal agencies tasked with deploying funds to entrepreneurs through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. But what sets the DoD apart from other government departments is the sheer reach of its funding. 

With 14 diverse components and a combined annual budget of $1.8 billion, the DoD is the most significant contributor to the federal government’s SBIR program. And the Navy is one of the department’s components, doling out contracts and netting practical military solutions from entrepreneurs. 


What is the SYSCOM SBIR?

Though the Navy is typically associated with maritime missions, it also includes both land- and aviation-based duties. It all adds to a diverse set of technological needs, which the Navy organizes as System Commands, or SYSCOMs.

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.


What is ONR SBIR?

Though it administers the overall efforts of the entire Navy SBIR program, the ONR also deploys its own ONR SBIR SYSCOM topics. The overarching goal of its ONR mission is to foster, plan, facilitate, and transition scientific research with the expressed purpose of sustaining naval power into the future while preserving national security efforts.

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The SBIR program related to NAVAIR involves the R&D of projects that provide material support for aircraft and airborne weapon systems for the Navy. NAVAIR SBIR cultivates small business innovations that develop naval aviation aircraft, weapons, and systems operated by sailors and marines. This effort often takes the form of research, design, systems engineering, test and evaluation, training facilities and equipment, logistics support, and more.

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Formerly dubbed Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), this SYSCOM changed its name to reflect the emergence of cybersecurity as a vital frontline defense. NAVWAR SBIR provides the country with critical networks, sensors, and systems to connect air, surface, subsurface, space, and cyberspace military assets in the name of national security. 

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The oldest of the Navy’s SYSCOMs, NAVFAC was established in 1842 as the Bureau of Yards and Docks. Today, NAVFAC performs facilities engineering for the Navy and Marine Corps. With assistance from the entrepreneurial minds gathered through the NAVFAC SBIR program, this SYSCOM plans, builds, and maintains sustainable facilities, delivering combat base services and equipment.

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What is MCSC SBIR?

Though a critical part of the Navy, the MCSC is the acquisition authority of the Marine Corps, exercising contract and technical command for ground weapon and information technology programs. The MCSC SBIR seeks to fund new technology R&D by small businesses to equip and sustain forces with competent and cost-effective systems while assisting with the transition of new technology into all operations.

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Protecting the country from bad actors around the globe would be nearly impossible without the necessary support systems firmly in place—this is where NAVSUP steps in for the Navy. This SYSCOM makes sure the Navy and its service people have all the supplies, services, and full quality-of-life support they need to perform their duty. NAVSUP SBIR could include a diverse array of tasks, including supply chain management, transportation, food and postal services, and even the movement of household goods and personal effects.

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What is SSP SBIR?

The Strategic Systems Program Office is instrumental in producing and supporting the Navy’s arsenal of submarine-launched ballistic missiles and other strategic weapons systems. What’s more, SSP executed the Polaris Sales Agreement with the United Kingdom and developed conventional hypersonic weapons. SSP SBIR calls on a highly specialized workforce with scientific, engineering, and professional expertise.

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To learn more about the specific SBIR programs for each of the above Navy SYSCOMs, reach out to the official SBIR contacts.

The Navy SBIR awards $140,000 in Phase I, with an option for an additional $100,000. Phase I consists of a period not to exceed six months.

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Phase II awards typically range from $500,000 to $1.7 million in size, and the performance period is generally 24 months. However, other funding mechanisms are in place along with Phase II that could top off at $3.6 million. As for non-SBIR funding, that amount has no cap.

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  • All SBIR awardees must be more than 50 percent directly owned and operated by one or more U.S. citizens.
  • Applicants must be a small business located in the U.S. with no more than 500 employees, including affiliates.
  • The small business must be a for-profit business.
  • The bulk of the work must be performed by the grant recipient, although business partners are allowed, and you may contract out a minor share of the work.

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Navy SBIR topics are available for a host of SYSCOMs, with an extensive list displayed on the Navy’s official SBIR site. Some of the current open topics include Digital Firing Device for NAVAIR, Submarine Deep Escape for NAVEA, and Radar Seeker Model for Hypersonic Weapon Full Life Cycle Support for SSP.

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Can I Use TABA Funds for Navy SBIR?

Earlier in this article, we stated that Phase III of SBIR—involving commercialization—does not include federal funds. However, one of the ways small businesses can receive discretionary funding meant for commercialization is through the Technical and Business Assistance (TABA) program. TABA is a backchannel that enables federal agencies to lend a financial hand to small businesses by funding vendors to support commercialization efforts. 

For information regarding SBIR TABA, contact the Navy’s SBIR Program Management Office.

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Accounting Requirements of the Navy SBIR Program

All applications submitted to the Navy SBIR program and its SYSCOM components must include an impeccable accounting system, complete with cost data, procedures for pricing prototyping requirements, and time record keeping. Applications submitted without these tenets of an acceptable SBIR accounting system will likely fall short, as the process is highly competitive. 

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 charges under general ledger control

Team 80 tasks its crew of experts to handle all of your SBIR accounting concerns, as they are well-versed in the many details and nuances of the SBIR process.Our accounting tools and systems are an invaluable resource—helping you and your team focus on developing an  innovative idea that floats to the surface in the sea of Navy SBIR applications.

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.


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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 noaa.sbir@noaa.gov 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 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.