Do you have an innovative idea worthy of deep space? We want to help you bring that idea to life with government funding.

In 2007, small business visionaries created a revolutionary technology that helped NASA’s Phoenix Mission find water on Mars.

Honeybee Robotics, Yardney Technical Products, and Starsys Research furthered NASA’s mission by developing an icy soil acquisitions device, lithium-ion batteries, and a wet chemistry laboratory. But if they didn’t have the government’s help, the ideas might have landed on the cutting room floor instead of Mars.
Robotic Rover on Mars Surface with Moon and Sun in the background

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program helped these small businesses bring their ideas to life.

The SBIR program has awarded funds to small businesses like yours for decades. The program funds early-stage research and development for specific government agencies like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The NASA SBIR program might be the key to bringing your revolutionary technology to life and into Outerspace.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about NASA’s SBIR program.

What is the NASA SBIR Program?

The SBIR program is highly competitive and encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federally-funded research and development for innovative technologies with commercialization potential.

There have been many discussions recently about the role small businesses can play in NASA’s upcoming directives. With NASA’s renewed interest in going back to the Moon and Mars, the potential for small businesses to help further their mission is at an all-time high.

Robert Cabana, Director of Kennedy Space Center, presented testimony before the Senate Committee of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, highlighting the SBIR program’s importance.

He noted that there had been a “Total spend to small business [of] more than $159 million,” which has gone to “fund the research, development, and demonstration of innovative technologies that both fulfill NASA needs and have significant potential for successful commercialization.”

How much are NASA SBIR/STTR awards?

NASA’s combined annual SBIR and STTR budget hovers between $190M and $210M. Since 2011, NASA has awarded an average of $139M in Phase I and Phase II contracts annually. The maximum value for each Phase I SBIR award is roughly $125K, and Phase II’s maximum value is around $750K. NASA explicitly states that every award-winning SBIR Phase I proposal is a firm-fixed-price contract.

How many phases are in the NASA SBIR/STTR program?

There are three phases in the NASA SBIR/STTR program. Here’s how NASA’s interactive guide describes each Phase:

  • Phase I — a small business establishes the scientific, technical, and commercial feasibility of a product or service.
  • Phase II — a small business will demonstrate the functionality of its idea through research and development (R&D).
  • Phase III — the commercialization of innovative technologies, products, and services that have emerged from Phase I and Phase II.

NASA Logo SignageEach Phase has a specific duration. The performance period for SBIR Phase I is up to 6 months, whereas the performance period for STTR is up to 13 months. The maximum performance period for both SBIR and STTR in Phase II is up to 24 months.

The NASA SBIR/STTR program does not let you switch from STTR to SBIR (or vice versa) after proposal submission. You also can’t trade during the award period of performance or Phases I and II.

Every year, NASA releases a list of SBIR/STTR topics, and the proposals for these topics are due in the first quarter of the calendar year.

Don’t worry if you haven’t met the solicitation period for the year – you can always try again next year. Still, you should prepare, stay ahead of the curve and keep your eyes open for upcoming SBIR NASA topics.

What NASA topics are available?

NASA always has its eyes on the next frontier, and with the possibility of extended space travel, NASA needs innovative technology.

There are four Mission Directorates (MD) at NASA, and each MD has its own needs. Here are the Mission Directorates:

Each MD has topics or subtopics that support its needs. You can peruse a list of available topics to ensure that your idea will meet NASA’s needs.

Topics are organized in Focus Areas, like:

  • Power and Energy Storage
  • Communications and Navigation
  • Sensors, Detectors, and Instruments
  • Life Support and Habitation Systems
  • Spacecraft and Platform Subsystems

Am I eligible for SBIR through NASA?

You’re on the right path if your idea has research and technical innovation elements and meets NASA’s needs.

However, suppose you want to be eligible for the NASA SBIR program (or any SBIR program). In that case, you must operate a for-profit business with less than 500 employees. Your company must be located in the US. It must be at least 51% owned and operated by one or more US citizens or permanent residents.NASA White Man & Black Women engineers sitting at desk looking at computers with large screen of astronauts on the wall

For STTR, you need to meet all of the same SBIR requirements, and you need to have a cooperative research and development relationship with a US Research Institution (RI). Your Research Institution must be an accredited college or university, a Federal research and development center, or a non-profit research organization.

How do I apply for NASA SBIR?

Are you sitting on the next revolutionary idea to help NASA explore the galaxy? If you are, it’s time to start the SBIR proposal process.

The proposal process can be challenging, and prepare yourself; it’s time-consuming (roughly 200 hours!). Your proposal must stand out above all the other applications, and you must prove your idea is substantive, and your team is prepared to see the project through to completion.

NASA scientists and engineers will evaluate your proposal, and they’ll determine whether or not you qualify based on five factors:

  1. Scientific/Technical Merit and Feasibility
  2. Experience, Qualifications, and Facilities
  3. Effectiveness of the Proposed Work Plan
  4. Commercial Potential and Feasibility
  5. Price Reasonableness

Are you thinking about including a letter of general endorsement? Think again. NASA won’t consider the blessings during the review process. If this sounds daunting, well, it is. Getting funds from the government is never easy.

Does this all sound a little daunting? It’s understandable. Getting funds from the government is never easy. Take a deep breath, and don’t be discouraged. Team 80 is here to help!

We have over 20 years of extensive experience working with agencies participating in the SBIR/STTR programs like NASA. We’re familiar with the NASA proposal submission and solicitation process; we can put you on the path to NASA SBIR success!

Let’s put your dreams in orbit. Get in touch today!

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