Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I find a solicitation?

I can’t find a solicitation that matches my technology. Can I submit my idea anyway?
No. Unsolicited proposals are neither requested nor accepted (see above). Some companies have contacted Federal agencies directly to talk to them about their technologies in order to elicit the agency’s interest in including priorities for applications that can take advantage of the company’s technology. This does not guarantee that the company will be a successful competitor because other companies may have technologies that can address the application also, perhaps even more successfully. Contacting the agencies simply opens the possibility that a competition will allow the company to compete.

Can I adjust a solicitation to match my technology?

No. However, some agencies (generally, those that that issue grants rather than contracts) have very broad solicitation areas. This allows you to more easily fit your technology into a solicitation area (see above).

How can I use a solicitation similar to my technology as a funding source?

As noted above, some agencies have rather broad solicitation areas that allow you to fit your technology within the defined area.

Under the SBIR/STTR programs, what is a “small business?”

To be eligible to compete for funding in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, a business must satisfy all the following criteria:

  • Have no more than 500 employees (including employees of affiliates) at the time of award. The rules for determining number of employees are published in 13 Code of Federal Regulations 121.
  • Be organized for profit. The business can be in the form of a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, joint venture, association, trust or a cooperative.
  • Be located in the United States.
  • Be at least 51% owned and controlled by an individual(s) who is (are) a citizen(s) of the United States or a lawfully admitted permanent resident.
  • The principal investigator of an SBIR project must have his or her primary employment be with the small business concern at the time of the award and during the conduct of the project. Primary employment means that more than one-half of the principal investigator’s time is spent in the employ of the applicant organization. Primary employment with a small business concern precludes full-time employment at another organization.

My technology doesn’t seem to fit either SBIR or STTR. What other funding sources might I consider?

Check the following sites to see if they might provide funding that is helpful to you:

  • The Advanced Technology Program (ATP) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce Technology Administration. It bridges the funding gap between the research lab and the market place, stimulating prosperity through innovation. Through partnerships with the private sector, ATP’s early stage investments accelerate the development of innovative technologies that promise significant commercial payoffs and broad economic benefits to the nation. Large and small businesses conceive, propose, co-fund and execute ATP projects, many times in alliance with academia, independent research organizations, and federal labs. These companies retain rights to all intellectual property developed in a project.
  • National Industrial Competitiveness Through Energy Environment Economics. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have combined to sponsor an innovative, cost-sharing program to promote energy efficiency, clean production, and economic competitiveness in industry. The grant program, known as NICE3, provides funding to state/industry partnerships for projects that develop and demonstrate advances in energy efficiency and clean production technologies. Since 1991, NICE3 has sponsored 26 projects, totaling $7.8 million of DOE funding.
  • If you contact SBIR/STTR program managers, sometimes they can suggest alternative sources of funding within their agency.

Can a firm go directly to a Phase II award without having to compete for Phase I?

Generally, no. Only firms that win Phase I awards can compete for Phase II awards. Recently passed legislation has enabled agencies to permit this. However, this is so recent that firm policies to permit this have not yet been implemented

Will innovations that have been patented or have patents pending be considered under SBIR?

These are not procurement programs. Rather, they are programs to fund research and development. SBIR/STTR funds cannot be used to fund existing technologies unless the funds are being used to extend the technology to a new type of application of interest to the Federal agency. That is, your company may have a technology that, if modified, can address a new problem. SBIR/STTR projects can fund the research and development of new application.

Why Should Your Company Seek SBIR/STTR Funding?

  • Enables the participating agencies to fulfill their missions
  • Provides your company with desirable recognition, and visibility.
  • Enables you to verify and validate your technology.
  • Potential leverage tool to attract venture capital/other sources of funding.
  • Fosters partnerships with primary contractors, other small companies, large corporations and experts in universities and non-profit research institutions.
  • Provides seed money to fund high risk projects.
  • Intellectual property rights are normally retained by the small business

No. Support is only available for R&D work. Small Business Innovation Research Program funding is not for standard procurement by the agencies. Sometimes, however, an application can be submitted to extend the technology to new needs, if the needs are expressed in agency priorities.

There are many issues one has to consider before applying. Among these are the following:

  • Is your group capable of writing a cogent, well-written proposal? There is a talent to this. It takes a great deal of time and effort to craft a competitive proposal. This is an anxiety producing process.
  • Can you wait for the process to unfold? From the time a request for proposals is issued to the time a proposal is funded (if funded), a half of a year or more can elapse. And that only takes you to the completion of the initial feasibility studies. Phase II funding may take two more years to develop a prototype. Some companies need money right away and can’t wait. Also, you cannot do the work that is proposed in advance of actual funding.
  • Is the amount of money available appropriate? Some projects cost far more than a phase I project will provide. Some require so little funding that applying is not worth the trouble.
  • Do you “have the horses” to qualify? You might have a great idea, but demonstrating your competence in the area may be difficult. (Try to get help from qualified experts at universities, research laboratories, or other institutions.)
  • Can you build a company? An inventor creates a product. An entrepreneur creates a company to manufacture and market the product. Your proposal has to reflect both sides of this coin.
  • Does your innovation have sufficient marketability to warrant funding? How many other companies or people will buy your innovation? Is it worth government investment?

Generally, yes. The intent of the legislation setting up Small Business Innovation Research Program is to have the intellectual property (patents, copyrights, etc.) stay with the company. Having said that, there are certain procedures for grantees to follow to ensure that they do not release their rights to the government. Also, the government may assume ownership of the intellectual property if a company accepts funding and then does not proceed to commercializing the innovation. After two years, the government may decide that the innovation should be made available in some other manner. This is a rare occurrence.