The U.S. Department of Education deploys its SBIR program through the Institute of Education Services.

The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is administered by the Institute of Education Services (IES). The ED/IES SBIR program funds the research and development of Education Technology (EdTech) meant to enhance the learning experience for students from early education through secondary education and beyond.

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The U.S. Department of Education (ED) stands apart from most other federal agencies in shaping the country’s future. This is because the department has a direct line to how we shape the minds of our next generation—and every generation that follows. 

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program fosters advancements in education, inspiring and funding talented product developers in their mission to develop products that take instruction to the next level. 

Administered by the Institute of Education Services (IES), ED/IES SBIR is a small business cause unlike any other.

This article will tell you everything you need to know about the ED/IES SBIR program. 

What Does ED/IES SBIR Stand For?

ED/IES SBIR is shorthand for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at the U.S. Department of Education (ED), which is administered out of its research office, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

What are the ED/IES SBIR Program Priorities?

Education is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. Instead, education must change and shift with the times while also being flexible to serve the needs of specific age groups and populations.

The ED/IES SBIR program accepts proposals for research and development (R&D) in three key areas.

  • Priority 1: Education technology products used by students or teachers (or other instructional personnel) in authentic education settings.
  • Priority 2: Education technology products for infants, toddlers, or students with disabilities. Also, teachers (or other instructional personnel, related service providers, or family members) in early intervention or unique education settings.
  • Priority 3: Education technology products used by school administrators. Or technologies designed for use in early intervention or special education settings

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What are the ED/IES SBIR Eligibility Requirements?

The eligibility requirements for entry into the ED/IES SBIR program follow the same path as the other federal agencies that offer SBIR programs.

To be eligible for ED/IES funding, the small business applicant must be a for-profit organization with no more than 500 employees and must be independently owned and operated in the U.S. by at least 51 percent US citizens or lawfully admitted residents.

Each small business that applies for SBIR funding through the ED/IES must also have a Principal Investigator (PI), who must be employed by the small business at least 51 percent of the time.

Throughout the project up until the award itself (and during the life-cycle of the award), the small business will be asked to verify its eligibility requirements.

Meanwhile, applicants are encouraged to collaborate with partners on their SBIR projects, including nonprofit firms and institutions.

These partners can receive up to one-third of the funds in Phase I of the SBIR program and one-half of the funds in Phase II. But remember: the small business must lead the project.

And one more wrinkle in ED/IES SBIR eligibility. 

The Education Department’s SBIR program also accepts proposals from small businesses owned in majority by multiple venture capital operating companies and hedge funds or private equity firms. And you can allocate up to 15 percent of your ED/IES SBIR annual budget to such companies. 

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ED/IES SBIR Program Structure

Like other SBIR programs across other federal agencies, the ED/IES SBIR program is broken into multiple phases. Each phase boasts its own requirements, benchmarks, purposes, and awards.

The ED/IES SBIR program includes three phases, the first two of which are supported by government funds and provide up to $1.25 million combined. The third phase is reserved for the private sector commercialization of education technology products.

Let’s go through the details of each phase!


The first phase is where the rubber meets the road.

This is where the primary R&D efforts commence, with government funds fueling your team’s efforts. Officially, Phase is meant to determine the scientific or technical merit of the ideas submitted under the ED/IES SBIR program.

  • How much is ED/IES SBIR Phase I Award?
    • ED/IES SBIR Phase I awards amount to $250,000.

  • How Long is ED/IES SBIR Phase 1?
    • The award period for Phase I is up to 8 months for rapid prototype development and evaluation of new education technology prototypes.
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A successful ED/IES SBIR Phase I project develops a functioning prototype of a new education technology project or service and determines the usability, initial feasibility, and promise of that prototype. 


The second phase bolsters the efforts that commenced in Phase I, continuing the R&D efforts and furthering your project’s viability in eventual commercialization.

  • How much is the ED/IES SBIR Phase II Award?
    • ED/IES Phase II awards amount to $1 million.

  • How Long is ED/IES SBIR Phase II?
    • The award period for Phase II is up to 2 years for the full-scale development and evaluation of new education technology products.
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A successful ED/IES SBIR Phase II project successfully develops a commercially viable product in the education technology sphere. It also demonstrates clear usability and feasibility of implementation in an educational setting, where it delivers on the promise to improve education in a classroom setting.

A successful Phase II project develops a commercialization plan for the project or service and develops strategies to evaluate its efficacy. 

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As with other federal agencies’ SBIR programs, Phase III is somewhat of a particular case. This final phase of the ED/IES SBIR program is set for private sector commercialization of the products developed in phases I and II with SBIR funds.

ED/IES does not provide funding for Phase III. Instead, it’s up to the small business to commercialize the products through other sources of financing, such as the private sector. 

What is the Executive Order 13329 on Encouraging Innovation in Manufacturing?

Executive Order 13329 was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004. It officially defined the duties of all agencies and departments that participate in SBIR programs while also assigning the Small Business Administration (SBA) with its own set of responsibilities. It is meant to ensure that federal agencies continually assist the private sector in its manufacturing innovation efforts.

Dubbed “Encouraging Innovation in Manufacturing,” Executive Order 1339 underscored the importance of technological innovation in strengthening the manufacturing sector of the country’s economy. Under the executive order, the SBIR and STTR programs were lauded for stimulating the economy while recognizing that such programs have improved innovations in education, health and welfare, national defense, environmental efforts, and more. 

The ED/IES promotes and supports Executive Order 13329 by maintaining a notice on the ED SBIR site that describes the order and defines manufacturing-related projects in education. ED/IES also tracks projects and reports success stories to demonstrate the impact of the SBIR program. 

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How do I apply for an ED/IES SBIR Award?

To apply for an ED/IES SBIR award, you must first find out whether or not you’re eligible (see the “What are the ED/IES SBIR Eligibility Requirements?” section of this blog above). Once confirming your eligibility, it’s time to apply.

The next step in the application process is registering your small business on the SBIR/STTR Company Registry. This portal will open access to the system, providing you with a unique control ID, which you will use for all your submissions. For more tips on the registration process, check out this guide published by America’s Seed Fund. 

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Who are the ED/IES SBIR Program Contacts?

There are two primary contacts for the ED/IES SBIR program. These contacts are:

Edward Metz, Ph.D.
ED/IES SBIR Program Manager
(202) 245-7550

Michael Leonard, Ph.D.
ED/IES SBIR Program Analyst
(202) 245-8133

Technical Assistance Disclaimer

The ED/IES SBIR program personnel can address questions about the ED/IES SBIR program or provide technical assistance related to project ideas before releasing the annual solicitation. 

Following the FAR regulations, please note that when the annual solicitation is open, program personnel and other government officials are not permitted to provide technical assistance or respond to questions from individuals preparing proposals in response to the ED/IES SBIR program solicitation.

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What is ED/IES SBIR Program Solicitation?

ED/IES Program Solicitations refers to the open projects available through the SBIR program. To participate in the ED/IES SBIR program, you must respond to a funding solicitation from your target agency, as programs do not accept “unsolicited” proposals—or a proposal that does not address a current topic. 

Solicitations are also known as Request for Proposals (RFP), Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), or Broad Agency Announcement (BAA). Regardless of the name, the solicitation is the document that provides guidance and rules and regulations about how to prepare a proposal. Along with topic areas of interest, solicitation documents also include Proposal Preparation Instructions, Application and Submission guidance, and Evaluation criteria.

To browse open topics by agency, use this search tool developed by America’s Seed Fund.

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What is the ED Games Expo?

The ED Games Expo is an annual showcase of paradigm-shifting innovations in education technology (EdTech), all developed with the support of more than 30 programs at the education department and other federal agencies. 

The learning games and technologies featured at the expo are appropriate for children and students from early childhood to post-secondary education and special education. EdTech games and technologies touch on STEM, reading, civics, social studies, etc. The resources displayed are research-based, with studies demonstrating the usability, feasibility, and promise leading to intended outcomes.

Participants in the annual ED Games Expo include:

  • Educators and school decision-makers learn about education interventions and assessments.
  • Students demo learning games and EdTech and then ask experts pointed questions about the technology.
  • Developers, researchers, and stakeholders learn about the government programs that invest in new education technologies.
  • Government program representatives highlight the technologies developed through federal programs.

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Who has won ED/IES SBIR Phase II Awards?

Across all participating federal agencies, success stories abound in the world of SBIR programs. However, ED/IES SBIR Phase II award success stories take on a fundamentally special feeling, as the project’s success ultimately means success across an array of educational settings.

And while each project is unique, they all started as innovative ideas that eventually grew into commercially viable products that enhance education and address specific needs in various educational settings. The following ED/IES SBIR success stories are all currently in use by students and teachers.

Agile Mind, Inc.

Phase II Award: $750,000

A technology company that seeks to broaden student access, achievement, and persistence in mathematics and science courses, Agile Mind Inc., developed a comprehensive online instructional platform. The SBIR-funded project consists of 30 web-based, animated visualizations that support learning and help students understand various educational topics. The research consisted of a mixed-methods study completed with 19 teachers and more than 300 students in the 9th and 10th grades from eight schools in two states.

Zoo U

Phase II Award: $849,989

A web-based, social skills learning game for students in grades two through four, Zoo U simulates a school environment and helps students gain social and emotional skills through everyday scenarios, such as recess games and in-classroom group work. The game first establishes a baseline of six skills: impulse control, emotion regulation, empathy, communication, cooperation, and social initiation. Students then play in up to 30 scenarios to improve and reinforce those skills. After creating the prototype, the Zoo U team conducted usability tests with school personnel and students. Since its launch, Zoo U has been the subject of peer reviews and was even a finalist for the 2017 CASEL Design Award Challenge.

Schell Games' Happy Atoms

Phase II Award: $899,542

Developed by Schell Games, Happy Atoms is a physical molecular “ball and stick” modeling set that pairs with an interactive digital app. The game provides a modern alternative to the old-fashioned teaching methods about bonding. Students build atom models, then use the app to snap a photo and identify the molecule with proprietary vision-recognition algorithms. In the development of Happy Atoms, Schell Games partnered with the nonprofit research agency WestEd to assess the game’s usability, feasibility, and implementation. The game project has gone on to gain numerous awards and national recognition, with stories featured in Huffington Post, TIME, and more. 

Is it time to start your ED/IES SBIR program journey? We’re here to help. Reach out to Team 80 today.

Get A Free Consultation for Your ED/IES SBIR Accounting Services
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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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