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STTR is an important small business program that expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development arena. Central to the program is expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include the joint venture opportunities for small business and the nation's premier nonprofit research institutions. STTR's most important role is to foster the innovation necessary to meet the nation's scientific and technological challenges in the 21st century.

Competitive Opportunity for Small Business:

STTR is a highly competitive program that reserves a specific percentage of federal R&D funding for award to small business and nonprofit research institution partners. Small business has long been where innovation and innovators thrive. But the risk and expense of conducting serious R&D efforts can be beyond the means of many small businesses.

Conversely, nonprofit research laboratories are instrumental in developing high-tech innovations. But frequently, innovation is confined to the theoretical, not the practical. STTR combines the strengths of both entities by introducing entrepreneurial skills to high-tech research efforts. The technologies and products are transferred from the laboratory to the marketplace. The small business profits from the commercialization, which, in turn, stimulates the U.S. economy.

STTR Qualifications:

Small businesses must meet certain eligibility criteria to participate in the STTR Program.

  • American-owned and independently operated

  • For-profit

  • Principal researcher need not be employed by small business

  • Company size limited to 500 employees

(No size limit for nonprofit research institution)

The nonprofit research institution must also meet certain eligibility criteria.

  • Located in the US

  • Meet one of three definitions

  • Nonprofit college or university

  • Domestic nonprofit research organization

  • Federally funded R&D center (FFRDC)

The STTR System:

Each year, five federal departments and agencies are required by STTR to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for award to small business/nonprofit research institution partnerships.

  • Department of Defense

  • Department of Energy

  • Department of Health and Human Services

  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  • National Science Foundation

These agencies designate R&D topics and accept proposals.

Three-Phase Program:

Following submission of proposals, agencies make STTR awards based on small business/nonprofit research institution qualification, degree of innovation, and future market potential. Small businesses that receive awards then begin a three-phase program.

  • Phase I is the startup phase. Awards of up to $100,000 for approximately one year fund the exploration of the scientific, technical, and commercial feasibility of an idea or technology.

  • Phase II awards of up to $750,000, for as long as two years, expand Phase I results. During this period, the R&D work is performed and the developer begins to consider commercial potential. Only Phase I award winners are considered for Phase II.

  • Phase III is the period during which Phase II innovation moves from the laboratory into the marketplace. No STTR funds support this phase. The small business must find funding in the private sector or other non-STTR federal agency funding.

SBA Role:

The US Small Business Administration plays an important role as the coordinating agency for the STTR program. It helps the five agencies implement STTR, reviews their progress, and reports annually to Congress on its operation.

SBA is also the information link to STTR. SBA collects solicitation information from all the participating agencies and publishes it electronically in a Pre-Solicitation Announcement (PSA). The PSA is a single source for the topics and anticipated release and closing dates for each agency's solicitation(s).

For more information on the STTR Program, please contact:

US Small Business Administration
Office of Technology
409 Third Street, SW
Washington, DC 20416
(202) 205-6450

All of SBA's programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.

External Links

Workshops and Conferences

If you are interested in attending a workshop or conference to learn more about the SBIR/STTR program use the following link to find local events.

Upcoming Workshops and Conferences


TECH-Net is an electronic gateway of technology information and resources for and about small high tech businesses. It is a search engine for researchers, scientists, state, federal and local government officials, a marketing tool for small firms and a potential "link" to investment opportunities for investors and other sources of capital.


Executive Order 13329 Encouraging Innovation in Manufacturing

On February 24, 2004, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13329 Encouraging Innovation in Manufacturing. The executive order defines duties of the agencies and departments that participate in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. It also assigns duties to the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The executive order states that continued technological innovation is critical to a strong manufacturing sector of the United States economy. The executive order recognizes that the commercialization of technologies, products, or services funded through the SBIR and STTR programs play a crucial role in stimulating the U.S. economy. The executive order further acknowledges that the research and development work performed by small businesses participating in these two important programs have contributed to our National defense, improved our health and welfare, protected the environment, and improved our production processes.

Executive Order 13329 assigns duties to the Federal Government to do its part to assist the private sector in its manufacturing innovation efforts. The duties of the participating agencies and departments that participate in the SBIR and STTR programs are:

1. to the extent permitted by law and in a manner consistent with the mission of that department or agency, five high priority within such programs to manufacturing-related research and development; and
2. submit reports annually to the Administrator of the Small Business Administration and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy concerning the efforts of such department or agency to implement of this order.

The duties assigned to the SBA are:

1. to establish, after consultation with the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, formats and schedules for submission of reports by the heads of departments and agencies; and
2. to issue to departments and agencies guidelines and directives (in addition to the formats and schedules) as the Administrator determines from time to time are necessary to implement the executive order, after such guidelines and directives are submitted to the President, through the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, for approval and are approved by the President.

To read a copy of the executive order, please follow the link below.

Executive Order 13329