SBIR grant | R&D of America small business | NSF & NIH proposal

What is the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program?

A highly competitive program that encourages American small businesses to engage in Federal Research and Development (R&D) that has the potential for commercialization.

America’s seed fund

Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR enables American small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.

Who can apply?

SBIR targets the entrepreneurial sector because that is where most innovation and innovators thrive.

Small for-profit U.S. business with 500 or fewer employees and greater than 50% individual U.S. ownership may apply.

Projects sought

SBIR funds the critical startup and development stages (technology readiness level 3) and it encourages the commercialization of the technology, product, or service, which, in turn, stimulates the U.S. economy.

What do federal reviewers look at?

  • Significance and innovation of the project – how innovative it is, its value proposition and societal impact etc.
  • Approach – R&D plan, how scientifically sound it is and how it fits the time and budget of the SBIR funding scheme. Are the activities enough scientifically and/or technically challenging?
  • The SBIR project team and its environment – the Principal Investigator (i.e. the coordinator of the scientific activities) and the technical team in charge of the proposed R&D; the company Management team; network (e.g. existing customers; scientific advisors and Key Opinion Leaders; stakeholders/partners); Company highlights (accomplishments; previous grants and investment rounds); facilities to conduct the proposed R&D.
  • The economic impact – customer segments, growth potential, revenue streams, etc.

Three-phase Program

The SBIR Program is structured in three phases.

  • Phase I:
    Intended to establish the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of the initial R&D effort and to determine the quality of the organization’s performance prior to providing further support in Phase II.
    SBIR Phase I awards are generally $150,000 - $250,000 for 6-12 months.
  • Phase II:
    Continue the R/R&D efforts initiated in Phase I. Funding is based on the results achieved in Phase I and the scientific and technical merit and commercial potential of the project proposed in Phase II.
    SBIR Phase II awards are generally $1,000,000-$1,500,000 for 2 years.
  • Phase IIB:
    Extends the R&D efforts beyond the current grant to further accelerate commercialization of the Phase II project.
    Not all SBIR institutions and centers offer Phase IIB awards, but for those that do, the budget may be requested for up to $1M per year for up to 3 years.
  • Fast-track:
    NIH also offers Fast-track, in which both Phase I and Phase II grant applications are submitted and reviewed together as one application, which can reduce or eliminate the funding gap between phases.
  • Phase III:
    Commercialization - Market maturity to market launch. The objective of Phase III, where appropriate, is for the small business to pursue commercialization objectives resulting from the Phase I&II R&D.
    The SBIR program does not fund Phase III.

How to apply?

Each Agency has its own proposal submission guidelines; however, the steps below provide general guidance for how to submit an application. The guidelines and content also differ depending on the phase in which you are submitting a proposal.

Agencies post solicitations describing the technical areas and seeking proposals from small businesses on their sites and on Some follow an annual solicitation proposal cycle and others on a need-only basis.

If you are planning to submit a SBIR proposal, we STRONGLY recommend that the small business immediately start the process of completing the four required registrations, in the following order: DUNS, System for Award Management (SAM), FastLane, and the SBIR Company Registry.

  1. Register with DUNS at A DUNS and Employer Identification Number (EIN) are required for SAM registration.
  2. Register the small business in the System for Award Management (SAM): as early as possible! Read the SAM Quick Start Guide for guidance.
  3. Before applying, register your company with the right agency portal. (NSF) or (NIH).
  4. Register with the SBIR Company Registry. See the "Registrations" page for more details:

Additionally, letters of support from outside individuals or organizations are an important part of the proposal. However, these letters take time to obtain. Potential proposers are recommended to start obtaining these letters as early as possible.

When to apply?

Teach agency has its own proposal submission deadlines. It is important to check the site of that agency to confirm these dates.


The next official deadline is on December 03, 2020.




The next official deadline is on January 05, 2021.



SBIR participating agencies

Currently, twelve Federal agencies participate in the SBIR program. AlienTT specializes on:

  • NIH National Institute of Health – Department of Health and Human Services
  • NSF National Science Foundation

About the NIH

NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, investing more than $32 billion a year to enhance life, and reduce illness and disability. NIH funded research has led to breakthroughs and new treatments, helping people live longer, healthier lives, and building the research foundation that drives discovery.

The NIH SBIR program funds early stage small businesses that are seeking to commercialize innovative biomedical technologies. This competitive program helps small businesses participate in federal research and development, develop life-saving technologies, and create jobs. Applications can be submitted under the following NIH Institutes and Centers:

  • NCI
  • NIA
  • NIDA
  • NEI
  • NIMH
  • NINR
  • NLM
  • ORIP

About the NSF

Grants that go beyond funding.

The NSF SBIR program seeks to transform scientific discovery into societal / economic benefit by emphasizing private sector commercialization.

To catalyze this, NSF SBIR increases the incentive and opportunity for startups and small businesses to undertake cutting edge, high-quality scientific research and development.

NSF SBIR grants go beyond R&D funding; recipients receive training in key business areas and gain mentorship from Program Directors who have extensive experience in industry.

NSF Directorates: NSF is divided into the following seven directorates that support science and engineering research and education:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Computer and Information Science and Engineering
  • Engineering
  • Geosciences
  • Mathematical and Physical Sciences
  • Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences
  • Education and Human Resources

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