The Environmental Protection Agency’s Small Business Innovation Research program requires a deep knowledge of the federal government’s funding processes. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program financially supports marketable ideas that benefit the environment and people. The EPA SBIR includes topics such as Air Quality, Clean and Safe Water, Risk Assessment, Safer Chemicals, Homeland Security, and Sustainable Materials Management.

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The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant program awards small businesses of all types the resources they need to create a solution to all manner of issues facing society. Nowhere is that more pressing than in environmental concerns. 

Tasked with addressing those problems is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a department in the federal government that works to protect the country from environmentally borne health risks through research and development. 

What Does EPA SBIR Stand For?

“EPA” refers to the Environmental Protection Agency, a department in the federal government that awards funds through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The EPA is one of 11 federal agencies participating in the SBIR program, giving small businesses the financial boost necessary to get countless ideas off the ground.

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What is the EPA SBIR Mission?

When the EPA launched in 1970 under President Richard Nixon, pollution had already been out of control for decades. There were reports that 400 New Yorkers succumbed to pollution in 1963, while a California oil spill in 1969 decimated the local bird population. Widespread environmental concerns culminated later that same year when a Cleveland stretch of the Cuyahoga River burst into flames due to the deadly combination of an oil slick and the sparks of a passing train. 

That disaster served as the springboard for the EPA’s ultimate mission: To protect the environment and, by extension, human health through policies, research, and development. 

And that’s where the EPA SBIR’s mission comes into play. This federal program is essential to providing small businesses with the financial means to transform their environmentally minded idea from research to reality. 

Every federal agency with a research and development (R&D) budget of more than $100 million is required by law to initiate an SBIR program. 

The SBIR program provides one way to award R&D funding to small businesses directly for the EPA. The goal of the EPA’s SBIR Program is to support the commercialization of innovative technologies that help support the EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment. 

As is the case of all federal agencies, the EPA’s SBIR program is split into phases. So, first, let’s look at EPA SBIR Phase I and Phase II details.

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The initial phase of the EPA’s SBIR program requires small businesses to establish the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of proposed R&D efforts. 

  • How Much Funding Does EPA Award for Phase I?

The EPA calls on small businesses to apply for its SBIR Phase I, awarding up to $100,000. Each awardee must demonstrate proof of concept in several environmentally-minded areas, such as clean and safe water, air quality, sustainable materials management, risk assessment, safer chemicals, and even homeland security. 

  • How Long is the EPA’s SBIR Phase I?

Small businesses awarded through the EPA SBIR Phase I program have six months to complete concept development. Subsequent funding in Phase II is based on the results of Phase I.

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The second phase of the EPA’s SBIR program continues all of the efforts that started in Phase I. Phase II funding is also based on the scientific and technical merit and commercial potential of the project proposed in Phase II.

  • How Much Funding Does EPA Award for Phase II?

The EPA awards up to $400,000 to each small business that completes the requirements of EPA SBIR Phase II. There’s also a commercialization option of up to $100,000 to further develop the technology for the marketplace.

  • How Long is the EPA’s SBIR Phase II?

The EPA’s SBIR Phase II award is good for two years of R&D work. At that point, the technology is taken to market—there is no Phase III in the EPA’s SBIR program.

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How Do I Apply for an EPA SBIR Award?

To apply for an SBIR award from the EPA, you need to start with the basics. That means developing a ground-breaking, innovative research idea that can be commercialized. From there, you need to learn about eligibility, your proposal requirements, and more.

Follow the federal government’s roadmap for applicants for a step-by-step guide through this SBIR application process.

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What are the EPA Solicitation Topics/Broad Focus Areas?

The EPA SBIR program is segmented into six broad solicitation topics, each one covering a dire need to protect the environment and, by extension, protect the health and safety of citizens. Here’s a list of solicitation topics, along with areas of concern that have received funding in the past:

  • Clean and Safe Water: Retrofit technologies to improve the operation of stormwater management infrastructure; technologies to process environmental samples of microplastics; modular decentralized non-potable water reuse for urban applications.
  • Air Quality: Air monitoring technology for air toxics; technologies to reduce exposure to radon in buildings; air monitoring technology for methane from oil and gas storage tanks.
  • Homeland Security: Air treatment methods to reduce the risk of transmitting viruses and bacteria in enclosed or semi-enclosed environments.
  • Sustainable Materials Management: Innovative technologies that will improve the U.S. recycling system; low impact construction materials and technologies to reduce embodied carbon in buildings; innovative technologies that help consumers prevent food waste in the acquisition, preparation, and storage of food.
  • Safer Chemicals: Microphysiological systems for predictive toxicology; post application pesticide drift predictor; PCB-free color technologies.
  • Risk Assessment: Software tools and machine-learning applications for systematic review in science.

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Do I need an External Commercial Review or an EPA Internal Technical/Relevancy Review?

Yes! Generally speaking, proposals require both an External Commercial Review and an EPA Internal Technical/Relevancy Review to net an award. The EPA utilizes a mix of internal and external reviewers to ensure funding is delivered to the most worthy proposals—this process includes reviews for both technical and commercial potential.

Each proposal is judged by peer reviewers, who measure the value of each submission via three sets of criteria:

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What are the Commercial Criteria for EPA SBIR?

Your proposal for the EPA’s SBIR program is measured against commercial criteria, ensuring that the technical innovation will perform in the marketplace. This criteria includes:

  • Market Opportunity:
    Does the technology address a significant market opportunity?
  • Company/Team:
    Does the proposing company have the essential elements, including expertise and experience, that would lead to successful commercialization
  • Commercialization Approach:
    Does the proposal present a convincing commercialization approach/business model that can successfully take the technology to market?

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What are the Technical Criteria for EPA SBIR?

But, hold on! Before delving into commercialization, the peer reviewers will gauge your proposal on a set of Technical criteria. This section examines the following questions:

  • Innovation:
    Does the proposed technology present an innovation that solves the environmental issue stated in the topic?
  • Technical Approach:
    Does the proposal demonstrate a sound approach to proving the technical feasibility of the concept and how to assess success?
  • Technical Challenges:
    Does the proposal address technical challenges, such as cost, competition, competitive advantage, and a lifecycle approach to solving the problem?

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What are the Relevancy Criteria for EPA SBIR?

And finally, the Relevancy Criteria measures the potential impact of the proposal and how relevant it is to the topic at hand. Within this criteria, the submission is judged upon:

  • Its potential in meeting the EPA’s priorities.
  • Its ability to advance sustainability while presenting environmental, economic, and societal benefits.
  • Its likelihood to be widely used, have broad application, and positively impact large population segments.

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What are the Required Registrations for the EPA SBIR?

The registration process for all SBIR awards can be arduous—which is why it’s essential to start early and take it seriously. It’s a process that can take anywhere from six to eight weeks and must be completed before submitting your application. The required registrations include:

Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS)

All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS

number, applicants can begin both Systems for Award Management (SAM) and Small Business Association (SBA) Company Registry. The same DUNS number must be used for all registrations, as well as on the proposal.

Employee Identification Number (EIN)

Both an Employee Identification Number (EIN) and a DUNS number are essential to moving forward in the SBIR funding process. The EIN base for the organization is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tax Identification (ID) number; for individuals, it is their social security number, both of which are nine-digit numbers.

SBA Company Registry

All applicants must register at the SBA Company Registry before application submission and attach proof of registration to their application.

System for Award Management (SAM)

Applicants must complete and maintain an active SAM registration, which requires an annual renewal. SAM registration includes assigning a Commercial and Government Entity (CAGE) Code for domestic organizations that have not already been assigned a CAGE Code.


A web portal, FedConnect is ideal for finding and applying for federal contracts, grants, and other types of assistance funding.

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Who Are Some Past Winners of the EPA SBIR Award?

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

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GVD Corporation

Spun out of MIT’s Chemical Engineering laboratories in 2001, GVD Corporation is a Massachusetts-based technology firm that sets a new standard for coating solutions. 

The Environmental Problem:

During its research, GVD found that many coatings used by industrial and medical manufacturers release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during the drying and curing process. This can be destructive to air quality, causing myriad health concerns.

The EPA SBIR Solution: 

GVD created a mold-release coating that uses no organic solvents with funds granted by the EPA SBIR program. This dramatically improves air quality, resulting in reduced toxic emissions. The SBIR award eventually led to a partnership between GVD and a significant automotive parts manufacturer. 

Green Building Studio, Inc.

A flexible cloud-based service, Green Building Studio Inc. runs building performance simulations to optimize energy efficiency and work toward carbon neutrality earlier in the design process.

The Environmental Problem:

Existing buildings are responsible for a hefty chunk of the world’s total primary energy consumption while also being guilty of consuming a sizable amount of the world’s available water supply. In these facts, Green Building saw a need to design buildings that minimize energy use and conserve water.

The EPA SBIR Solution: 

Through EPA SBIR funding, Green Building Studio, Inc. developed a web-based modeling tool to streamline the design of sustainable buildings. The web service helps designers and architects analyze water use in a structure, eligibility of the LEED® daylight credit, renewable energy potential at the building site, and the natural ventilation potential of the building. 

Bridger Photonics

Located in the heart of southwestern Montana’s Rocky Mountains, Bridger Photonics specializes in state-of-the-art technologies that revolutionize methane detection in multiple industries.

The Environmental Problem:

Fossil fuel combustion is the primary source of CO2 pollution, with electricity generation and vehicle exhaust accounting for most of these emissions. Existing technologies require sampling emitted gases with point-source gas-intake measurement devices, which is time-consuming and tedious. This makes it difficult for regulators to identify or quantify CO2 pollution sources.

The EPA SBIR Solution:

An award through the EPA SBIR program enabled Bridger Photonics to develop a mid-infrared laser for use in a remote CO2 sensor with a high-range resolution for onsite CO2 monitoring and spatial mapping from a distance. For example, the CO2 concentration of a smokestack plume can be determined by directing a laser beam at the distant plume. 


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Become Your Own EPA SBIR Success Story

What those successful EPA proposals have in common is the innovative authors all had the time and the team to perform the necessary research and development.

Far too many crucial ideas fall by the wayside simply because of a slight accounting oversight that could have been easily avoided. Team 80 delivers the services you need to ensure no accounting oversight derails your environmentally sound solution.

Free Consultation for EPA SBIR Accounting Services
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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