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SBIR Program Overview, Participation Eligibility and Evaluation Criteria


Program Overview

The SBIR program was originally established in 1982 by the Small Business Innovation Development Act (P.L. 97-219). Subsequent legislation has extended the program until September 30, 2017. Eleven federal agencies set aside a portion of their extramural research and development budget each year to fund research proposals from small science and technology-based firms.

The SBIR Program goals are:

  1. to increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R&D;
  2. to use small business to meet federal research and development (R&D) needs;
  3. to stimulate small business innovation in technology; and
  4. to foster and encourage participation by minority and disadvantaged persons in technological innovation.

  Purpose Duration Funding Amount
Phase I Feasibility 6 months Up to $100,000
Phase II R&D 2 years Up to $300,000
Phase III Commercialization No limit Non-SBIR funds

SBIR Participation Eligibility

Each organization submitting a proposal for both Phase I and Phase II must qualify as a small business concern for research or R&D purposes at the time of award for each phase. In addition, the primary employment of the principal investigator must be with the small business at the time of the award and during the conduct of the proposed research. More than one-half of the principal investigator's time must be spent with the small business for the period covered by the award. Primary employment with a small business precludes full-time employment with another organization.

Also, for both Phase I and Phase II, the work must be performed in the United States. "United States" means the fifty states, the territories and possessions of the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and the District of Columbia. However, based on a rare and unique circumstance (for example, a supply or material or other item or project requirement that is not available in the United States), agencies may allow that particular portion of the R/R&D work to be performed or obtained in a country outside of the United States. Approval by the funding agreement officer after consultation with the agency SBIR Program Manager for each such specific condition must be in writing.

Joint ventures and limited partnerships are eligible, provided the entity created qualifies as a small business as defined in this solicitation. The small business awardee may enter into subawards with universities or other non-profit organizations.

For Phase I, a minimum of two-thirds of the research and/or analytical effort must be performed by the awardee. For Phase II, a minimum of one-half of the research and/or analytical effort must be performed by the awardee.

Unsolicited proposals or proposals not responding to subtopics listed herein are not eligible for SBIR awards. Only proposals that are directly responsive to the subtopics as described in section 9 will be considered.


Evaluation Criteria

All Phase I and II proposals will be evaluated and judged on a competitive basis. Proposals will be initially screened to determine responsiveness. Proposals passing this initial screening will be technically evaluated by engineers or scientists to determine the most promising technical and scientific approaches. Each proposal will be judged on its own merit. NIST is under no obligation to fund any proposal or any specific number of proposals in a given topic. It also may elect to fund several or none of the proposed approaches to the same topic or subtopic.

Detailed evaluation criteria for Phase I and Phase II proposals is specified in the solicitation.