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

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

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

What Does NOAA SBIR Stand For?

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

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

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What Is the NOAA Technology Partnerships Office (TPO)?

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

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

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

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What Is the NOAA Mission?

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

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What Are the Different Mission Areas of the NOAA SBIR?

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

Climate and Weather

  • Climate Program
    • The Climate Program Office organizes its efforts into three divisions: Earth System Science and Modeling, Climate and Societal Interactions, and Communication, Education, and Engagement. These divisions work in tandem to enhance our ability to make informed decisions about the climate. 
  • Weather Program
    • The Weather Program Office works closely with the National Weather Service to develop and transition weather research to improve knowledge about tropical cyclones, severe storms, extreme precipitation, air pollution, and social science—and to integrate weather, water, and climate forecasting and mitigation.
  • Severe Storms and Hurricane Research
    • The National Severe Storms Laboratory serves the nation by working to improve the lead time and accuracy of severe weather warnings and forecasts. The Hurricane Research Division focuses specifically on hurricanes, coastal ecosystems, and oceans. 
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  • Earth System Research and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Research
    • The Earth System Research Laboratories generate experimental weather and climate products to provide a broad range of environmental information services. The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory focuses on understanding the physical, dynamical, chemical and biogeochemical processes governing the behavior of the various ecosystems.

Oceans, Coasts, and Fisheries

  • Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing Program
    • The Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing Program provides and supports high-quality global ocean observations and research to improve scientific understanding and inform society about the ocean’s role in environmental change.
  • Ocean Exploration and Research
    • NOAA Ocean Exploration researches the world’s oceans and delivers oceanic information to strengthen the economy, health, and security of the country.
  • Fisheries Research and Aquaculture Program
    • Fisheries Research provides science-based solutions for the conservation and management of sustainable fisheries, marine mammals, endangered species, and their habitats. The Aquaculture Program addresses the technical and scientific barriers of marine aquaculture and provides scientific information for management.
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  • Oceans and Coasts
    • The National Ocean Service provides data, tools, and services that support coastal economies and their contribution to the national economy. This includes safe and efficient transportation, risk reduction, and stewardship efforts. 
  • Great Lakes Environmental Research
    • Great Lakes Environmental Research explores the dynamic environments and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and coastal regions to provide information for resource use and management decisions that lead to safe and sustainable ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human communities.
  • Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean Research
    • These programs focus their efforts on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, making critical observations and conducting research to advance our knowledge of how oceans interact with the earth, atmosphere, ecosystems, and climate.

Satellites and Remote Sensing

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

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

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

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

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

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How Do I Apply for an NOAA SBIR Grant?

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

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Who Are the NOAA SBIR Program Contacts?

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

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

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What Are the NOAA SBIR Topics?

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

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

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

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Are There NOAA SBIR Phase II Award Success Stories?

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

Company: Creare LLC

Phase II Award: $399,920.38

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

Company: Forever Oceans Corporation

Phase II Award: $399,497

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

Company: Metron, Incorporated

Phase II Award: $399,981.17

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

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What Are the NOAA SBIR Accounting Requirements?

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

Some of the specific accounting requirements for SBIR include:

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

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

Team 80 Director of Governmental Accounting Ben Smith

Ben Smith

Director of Governmental Accounting

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

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