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Help for Start-Ups, Pt. 5: How the SBIR Program Can Help your High-Tech Smallbiz

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Help for Start-Ups, Pt. 5: How the SBIR Program Can Help your High-Tech Smallbiz

By nicoj
Published: September 14, 2011 Updated: August 18, 2015

What do successful companies like Symantec, Qualcomm and ViaSat have in common? They’ve all used the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to develop their technology-driven businesses. Qualcomm, for example, used SBIR grants during its initial years, eventually growing to employ over 17,000 people. Symantec grew out of an SBIR research project that led to the company’s Norton Internet security products—and the creation of over 18,000 jobs in 40 countries.

Can your company benefit from this program? In this post, you can get the scoop on opportunities available through SBIR.

What is SBIR?

SBIR is a federal program that awards grants and contracts to high-technology small businesses (sometimes referred to as “high-growth, high-impact firms” or “high-tech start-ups”). The awards allow these entrepreneurs to carry out the research and development (R&D) necessary to develop innovative technological products that can be brought to market. Not only does SBIR funding support awardees, it also helps the federal government meet R&D needs.

Ultimately, SBIR achieves multiple goals:

·         Kick-starting high-impact private industry

·         Meeting government research needs

·         Creating opportunities to bring innovative technologies to market

·         Ensuring small businesses can access federal R&D opportunities.

In all, 11 federal agencies participate in the SBIR program. SBA acts as the coordinating agency of the program.

How does SBIR work?

First, small businesses explore program solicitations to find out how their ideas address federal R&D goals. Companies then submit an application responding to a solicitation that fits well with their own research goals. Applicants submit short proposals (around 25 pages) to the soliciting agency by stated deadlines. The agency then reviews proposals based on technical merit, qualifications, and potential benefits to industry and society. Once agencies grant awards to small business, they embark on the R&D process. For a more complete run-down of the process, check out the new SBIR.gov website.

SBIR Phase I, II and III

SBIR is a three-tiered program with the following award stages:

·         Phase I: These awards are usually below $150,000 and cover a timeframe of less than 6 months. During this initial stage, the small business and sponsoring agency explore the feasibility of the project in order to get a better sense of its commercial potential and technical requirements.

·         Phase II: These awards are only available to small businesses that already received Phase I awards. Phase II enables a longer-term commitment. Awards can be made for up to $1 million for two years. During this period, R&D is expanded and commercial viability can be assessed.

·         Phase III: During this stage, innovations transition from the lab to the market, and small businesses begin the search for private sector investment. Keep in mind that the SBIR program does not fund Phase III; funding comes from private sources or other government grants.

Who’s Eligible?

To get an SBIR award, small businesses should be American-owned and located in the U.S., operate for profit, and have less than 500 employees (similar to SBA’s general size standards). The principal researcher must be an employee of the business. The SBIR program is very competitive. Check out the Annual Reports to determine program award selectivity for previous years.

How to begin the SBIR process

To apply for a grant, you should first check out the list of open solicitations at SBIR.gov. The solicitations explain the areas of research that agencies are looking for. If you have a question about how to apply or about a specific solicitation, contact someone at the relevant agency listed on the SBIR point of contact list. For helpful answers on common questions, see the FAQ page.

As you investigate opportunities for your small business, be sure to visit SBIR’s new website. There, you will find public postings of solicitations, awards, a calendar of events, success stories, and a list of participating agencies (and links to each agency’s SBIR page).

This blog post is the fifth in our series cataloguing government-sponsored programs for high-technology entrepreneurs. So far, we’ve written about grant programs, loan programs, technical assistance, and education/counseling.

About the Author:

Nico Janssen
My name is Nico and I'm serving as a moderator for the Community.


I'm not understanding what grant can help me with the type of business I am starting up. Are there any on campus training workshops in the Dallas area that can better help?
I dont understand this funding process.....Im trying to get a Startup loan for a Restaurant and I am HAVING NO LUCK AT ALL
Hi every one, I am a women, I just stablished my corporation for construction business. But I need capital in order to start my office, employee salaries, construction equipments and all other expenses to be able to start working. Would you please help me with the right person's name, email and phone number to help me out get grant or capital to start? Thank you all for your generosities
Thanks a lot and keep sharing the information. Keep updating the information for all of us.
I believe that a small business can make a difference if give a chance. With the SBA and Government Grants, these advantages can and will take off like a rocket.
The problem I see with this is if you do not have 10 years of college then they believe that you are not capable of building anything that has not already been built. No one out there wants to help a minority small company try to do R&D because, as stated before, they do not think we can do it. As a small company we can not afford 5 to 8 thousand dollars to have our paperwork do to be sent in only to be turned down.
The SBIR program is great for both the business owner and the federal research team to measure growth and success during the transition R&D process of becoming a great entrepreneur however I am requesting information about a program designed to assist minorities with business start up .
I wish we had such programs when I was starting my self employment career. Good job guys!
Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It's always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!
I am interested in a Small Unique Food/Beverage Establishment. Not yet finding a relation to the overwhelming success of the granted S Businesses mentioned in this article Mr. NIco... Perhaps there is an alternate route for a New & upcoming investment such as desired?


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