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Utilizing funds in the form of contracts or grants, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is a federal government program that aims to assist small businesses in conducting research and development. The program invests in scientific excellence and technological innovation with research funds. 


The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program helps small businesses participate in federal research and development, develop life-saving technologies, and create jobs. 

While the mission is straightforward, the processes involved in landing a grant can be complicated for small businesses operating with skeletal teams and limited budgets. That’s why Team 80 wants to help as best we can. 

So, where do you start? First, let’s find out what agencies participate in the SBIR program.

What Agencies Participate in the SBIR Program?

Federal agencies that participate in SBIR range from the Department of Defense to the National Science Foundation. There are 11 agencies that deliver SBIR grants and one that acts as a coordinating agency. Let’s explore the role each one plays in this crucial program for small businesses. 

  1. Small Business Administration

    Start your journey here. More of a governing body than a participant, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the coordinating agency for the SBIR program, directing the agencies’ implementation of SBIR, reviewing their progress, and reporting annually to Congress on its operation. SBA is also the information link to the SBIR program, meaning it distributes important details to small businesses looking to learn more and take part in the SBIR.

  2. Department of Agriculture

    The SBIR program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers grants to qualified small businesses in support of research related to scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture, particularly those that significantly benefit the public. A grant from the USDA stimulates private-sector technological innovations in the agricultural field, funding a range of projects including rural development, conservation of natural resources, aquaculture, and more.

  3. Department of Commerce

    The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) engages with businesses, communities, universities, and workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved living standards. Endowed with a workforce that includes economists, Nobel-winning scientists, patent attorneys, law enforcement, and other specialists in various sectors (including aerospace engineering), the department has inspired several advancements in many different fields through the SBIR.

  4. Department of Defense

    Investing more than $1 billion annually in small business technology through the SBIR, the Department of Defense provides high-tech, small businesses with the opportunity to propose innovative research and development solutions in response to critical defense needs. DOD SBIR focuses on the many branches of national defense, awarding grant money to the few, the proud, the small businesses developing defense-minded technological advancements.

  5. Department of Education

    Housed within the Department of Education’s (ED) research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) funds for-profit technology firms to research, develop, and evaluate commercially viable education technology products. Awardees must demonstrate relevant student or teacher outcomes in education or special education; success stories from the department’s SBIR program run the gamut from online instructional platforms to math game apps.

  6. Department of Energy

    The SBIR program works collaboratively with offices throughout the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE technical program managers develop research topics selected for SBIR grants. At the same time, the department offers more than 60 technical topics and 250 subtopics, spanning the fields of energy production and use, fundamental energy sciences, energy storage, security, environmental management, and defense nuclear nonproliferation.

  7. Department of Health & Human Services

    The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) deploys the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in search of innovative technologies in the world of biomedical research. Through the SBIR, the departments seek paradigm-shifting expertise that can be applied to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. One fascinating success story comes from a Colorado-based company that developed medical devices that inhibit bacteria growth by mimicking shark skin.

  8. Department of Homeland Security

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) SBIR program provides qualified small businesses with opportunities to propose innovative ideas that meet specific homeland security research and development technology needs. Grants from the DHS SBIR tend to focus on particular areas of concern, including cybersecurity, first responders, chemical and biological defense, detecting bioterrorism, critical infrastructure, border security, and more.

  9. Department of Transportation

    The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) SBIR program awards contracts to domestic small businesses working on research and development for solutions to the country’s transportation woes. The main focus of DOT SBIR grants is to benefit both the department itself and the public at large. For example, one such awarded business used technology to stop invasive species from hitching a ride on construction vehicles that cross ecological biosystems.

  10. Environmental Protection Agency

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delivers SBIR grants in the search for entrepreneurs who utilize innovative technologies in the stewardship of the environment. With its stated mission of protecting human health and the environment, the EPA seeks to address a host of concerns with SBIR, including natural resources, public health, air quality, energy conservation, international trade, and more.

  11. National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Much more well known as NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration exercises the human spirit of exploration with the help of SBIR funds. NASA SBIR has inspired generations of geniuses to boldly go where none of us have gone before. For example, NASA SBIR companies supplied the technology necessary to develop the Phoenix Lander mission, which investigated the presence of water in the Mars arctic region.

  12. National Science Foundation

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR program takes scientific and engineering innovations and turns them into products and services with a societal impact. Dubbed America’s Seed Fund, the NSF’s SBIR program is housed within the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships within the Directorate for Engineering. One awardee success story features a company that developed technology to recycle carbon dioxide into fuel.

What Do You Need To Know Before Applying For SBIR Grants?

Filling out government paperwork is an arduous process—especially for an SBIR grant, as it combines peer-reviewed scientific papers, business proposals, and grant applications. To simplify things, you need to go through the preliminary steps.


Step 1: Confirm Your Eligibility

Review the eligibility criteria with a fine-tooth comb. And before you throw your hat into the ring, contact your local SBA district office to confirm you meet the basic requirements. 



Step 2: Review Relevant Topics

You’ve researched the program parameters, and you know you’re eligible. Now it’s time to search for SBIR funding opportunities. In this step, you must search for open, future, and closed topics to check out the calls for proposals. This search determines if your work aligns with any existing SBIR grant solicitations.



Step 3: Choose An Opportunity

When you find a grant that matches your project parameters, you can move on to the proposal phase. 

This involves another search to learn whether your project aligns with the specific government agency’s eligibility criteria. Find detailed information by visiting the SBIR portal or by contacting the agency in question for more details.


Are You Eligible For An SBIR Grant?

It’s important to remember that each government agency has its own set of standards for eligibility. However, some requirements are universal across all agencies. 

  • You must be a small business in the U.S. with no more than 500 employees, including affiliates.

  • You must be a for-profit business.

  • You 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 you can contract out a minor share of the work. 

Learn the complete SBIR eligibility requirements here, and research further details regarding eligibility and the difference between the agencies in this overview from the SBA.

Who Funds The SBIR?

All SBIR grants are federally funded. This means that funds ultimately come from the public in the form of taxpayer dollars. The congressionally mandated SBIR program requires every federal agency with an external research budget of more than $100 million to earmark between 1.5 to 3.2 percent of their budget for small businesses.

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How Hard Is It To Get SBIR Funding?

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Nothing worth having comes easy—and that’s certainly the case with SBIR grants. With the work needed to apply, the SBIR grant process can be exceedingly time-consuming and onerous for small businesses with limited staff and budgets. What’s more, the time between submission and receiving the funds can be a nerve-wracking, drawn-out process. 

 

This is precisely why you need an accounting partner that can crunch the numbers for you and relieve a measure of the burden.

Prominent Past SBIR Phase II Award Winners For Each Agency

SBIR Phase II can provide the necessary funds to research, develop, and produce innovative commercial products. 

Hundreds, if not thousands, of small businesses have benefited from SBIR Phase II Awards across the 11 agencies that grant them. Here’s one success story from each agency.


Department of Agriculture

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to Precision Combustion, Inc.

Amount: $599,640

Illustration of Laboratory Analyst

Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI), located in North Haven, CT, developed an innovative air purifier to reduce ammonia concentrations in poultry houses. The SBIR Phase II award gives PCI the boost it needs to see the project to fruition.

With poultry consumption in the U.S. at an all-time high (and expected to continue its upward trajectory), this SBIR Phase II award-winning project figures to have an immediate, positive effect on consumers. 

 

The solution enables improved poultry health while lowering operating costs through savings on propane for ventilation and other ammonia reduction methods. According to Precision Combustion, flushing out ammonia from animal agricultural operations is critical to the well-being of the animals, the workers, and the environment at large. While other efforts to reduce ammonia simply shift it elsewhere, Precision Combustion’s award-winning solution eradicates the ammonia. 

The SBIR Phase II award helps the project mature to the next level, optimizing components and improving the system’s cost-effectiveness.


Department of Commerce

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to Robotic Materials Inc.

Amount: $400,000

illustration of Robot arm picking up boxes on production line

The SBIR Phase II Award moved Robotic Materials Inc. to the next level in developing an easy-to-use, autonomous bin-picking and assembly operation for the manufacturing industry.

Robotic Materials Inc. designed a series of object manipulation systems to pick up and assemble mechanical parts such as screws, gears, and pulleys—all configured without the need for any programming skills. 

The Boulder, CO-based tech innovation company started with an intelligent robotic gripper, 3D perception equipment, and machine-learning algorithms, then designed a graphical user interface that identifies assembly parts and issues pick-up and assembly commands. 

The SBIR Phase II Award extends the development to include more manufacturing possibilities and will lead to deploying the equipment to real users.


Department of Defense

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to RAVN INC.

Amount: $1,106,363

Illustration of Augmented Reality Glasses

The Department of Defense SBIR Phase II Award (Navy branch) spearheaded the production of a new augmented reality vision system. Developed by Ravn Inc., the cost-effective helmet-mounted systems offer advanced sensor capabilities that can project a wide array of data piped in from various sources. It’s a real game-changer for troops in the field.

In Phase I of its SBIR, Ravn Inc. conceived of a High-tech Assaulter’s Virtual Command and Control (HAVOC) Interface. This multi-modal display-and-compute platform leverages a head-worn display and associated peripherals to provide an intermediate augmented reality capability to infantry forces. 

The display enables users to send, receive, view, and manage digital information in a platform that’s functional in the field of battle. Additionally, it increases situational awareness and the ability to interact with external technology platforms. 

With the SBIR Phase II award, Ravn proposes further development of its head-worn display for Odin, an intermediate augmented reality capability for infantry and special operations forces that enables a team-up between human and machine. 


Department of Education

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to Parametric Studio, Inc.

Amount: $900,000

Illustration of kid puzzle on phone

The world of augmented reality also enhances learning, as demonstrated by Parametric Studio, Inc. A recipient of the Department of Eduction’s SBIR Phase II Award, Parametric Studio developed NEWTON-AR, an augmented reality application-based engineering, computer science, and STEM puzzle game for kindergarten to grade three.

Parametric Studio, an Iowa-based ed-tech company, specializing in engineering-centric, project-based STEM software, designed the project for use in classrooms, after-school programs, and at-home learning. 

NEWTON-AR combines augmented reality, engineering, simulation, and programming into a sandbox game where students create, modify, simulate, prototype, and test contraptions to solve puzzle challenges.

The SBIR Phase II Award furthers the development of supporting curricular materials for teachers, student workbooks, and online media resources.


Department of Energy

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to Giner, Inc.

Amount: $249,999

Illustration of hand holding trees next to a moon

Greenhouse gases have devastated the environment, and reducing these emissions is vital to the planet’s long-term health. The Department of Energy’s SBIR Phase II Award looks to be part of the solution, recognizing Giner, Inc. for its development of a system to “capture” carbon dioxide (CO2) before it chokes the air we breathe. 

A large portion of the CO2 emitted by the U.S. is released from sources such as cars, smaller factories, and farms—which are known as distributed sources. Giner, Inc, based in Newton, MA, conceived of a system to “direct capture” CO2 from ambient air, contain it and transform it into a purified, concentrated CO2 stream that can be redirected for use as raw material to fuel a wide variety of industrial processes. 

The SBIR Phase II of this project will scale up the application, with no environmental limitations and virtually no waste generated, for an energy-efficient and low-cost strategy to remove carbon dioxide from ambient air.


Department of Health & Human Services

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to DiamiR, LLC

Amount: $1,250,063

Illustration of Alzheimer Doctor in her office

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 years or older had Alzheimer’s disease in 2020. This number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060. Since Alzheimer’s typically begins with a prolonged asymptomatic stage, DiamiR, LLC sought to develop a minimally invasive diagnostic tool for primary screening individuals with early stages of the disease. 

The Department of Health & Human Services SBIR Phase II Award helps DiamiR continue advancing such medical technology. The project involves a platform that detects and monitors different stages of Alzheimer’s based on targeted selection and analysis of brain-enriched and inflammation-associated microRNAs (miRNAs) circulating in blood plasma.

The SBIR Phase II Award will see the test broadly launched to gerontologists/neurologists and other medical professionals engaged in AD treatment and care.


Department of Homeland Security

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to Karagozian & Case, Inc.

Amount: $999,644.84

Illustration of security official standing in front of a secure computer screen

The Department of Homeland Security’s SBIR Phase II Award landed on Karagozian & Case, Inc., a science and engineering consulting firm that developed a capability to identify and mitigate threats toward Soft Targets and Crowded Places (ST-CPs) with a software application.

ST-CPs, such as sports arenas, shopping venues, schools, and transportation systems, are locations that are easily accessible to large numbers of people and that have limited security or protective measures in place. 

This vulnerability to attack makes ST-CPs a crucial area of concern to address. Karagozian & Case, Inc., located in Glendale, CA, incorporates advanced technologies such as augmented reality, machine learning, and artificial intelligence into an application to enable security professionals to view their environment through a mobile device to identify potential threats, assess vulnerabilities, and evaluate possible mitigation strategies.

The SBIR Phase II award enables a 1-year beta release of the Security Mitigation Assessment of Risks and Threats (SMART) software before a subscription model is licensed.


Department of Transportation

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to SEA, Ltd.

Amount: $498,554.25

Illustration of an electric car plugged into charging stations

While it seems like we’ve heard about self-driving cars forever, we might be on the precipice of it becoming a common sight in traffic. The main roadblock is the lack of traditional driving controls in autonomous vehicles, which presents a significant challenge for regulatory tests typically conducted manually or by driving robots. 

SEA, Ltd., based in Columbus, OH, sought to change everything by designing and producing a market-ready prototype for a test data interface (TDI). Consisting of a port installed on a vehicle that interfaces internally with the car’s driving systems, it allows manual control via standardized electronic command signal inputs.

The SBIR Phase II Award helps SEA, Ltd. move forward and develop the required safety and security measures, along with the communication protocol details. 


Environmental Protection Agency

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to KWJ Engineering Inc.

Amount: $300,000

Illustration of Firefighter

With wildfires becoming more and more prevalent, we must look at the subsequent environmental impact of these devastating blazes. KWJ Engineering Inc. is doing just that with its Ultra-Low Power Sensor Package project. 

Wildfires produce significant air pollution, posing health risks to first responders, residents in nearby areas, and downwind communities. As such, KWJ developed technologies to measure air pollutants, including particulates, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon dioxide, over the wide range of levels expected in areas downwind of wildfires. 

In addition, the California-based engineering firm evaluated ultra-low-cost sensors, advancing technologies to measure such environmental hazards cost-effectively.

In SBIR Phase II, KWJ will assemble and field-test a sensor package that can be deployed in various ways. This includes devices worn by personnel, attached to stands located around the perimeter of the fire, and fixed to vehicles and drones. 


National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc.

Amount: $746,758

Illustration of a rocket launch

If you’ve ever read about Europa, one of the 79 known moons of Jupiter, you know it’s one of the most mysterious and intriguing bodies in our solar system. NASA has always expressed interest in exploring the icy moon, which is why the administration awarded Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. for its Autonomous Melting Probe for Icy Planets Exploration.

The project developed a thermal probe that can penetrate the thick and cryogenic ice layer of Europa efficiently and reliably. A nuclear-powered probe, the technology consists of multiple features that minimize penetration time while mitigating a series of previously complex challenges. 

The SBIR Phase II award enables Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. to mature the proposed thermal technology and develop a full-scale thermal probe for an envisioned Europa mission.


National Science Foundation

Past SBIR Phase II Awarded to IngateyGen LLC

Amount: $996,698

Illustration of GENOME Scientists

Peanut allergies have confounded the medical and scientific community for decades. No one is 100 percent sure why this allergy occurs or has become increasingly prevalent among children. IngateyGen LLC took on this project to Development An Allergen-Free Peanut Using Genome Editing Technology.

Given the ubiquity of peanut products, peanut allergy is a significant medical and legal concern worldwide, with a rising incidence of this potentially fatal condition in children. An allergen-free peanut developed from this project has the potential to dampen the life-threatening reactions to peanuts significantly. The proposed project aims to develop and commercialize an allergen-free peanut devoid of all clinically documented allergens using a genome-editing tool.

The SBIR Phase II Award further funds IngateyGen LLC to study peanut allergies and to assess the possibility of developing an allergen-free peanut.


After all, you’ve got enough work ahead of you. Team 80 manages all government-mandated accounting needs, allowing you to stay focused on researching and developing your SBIR program project.

Start your SBIR journey today.

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