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Participation eligibility and evaluation criteria

SBIR Program Overview

The SBIR program was 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 for SBIR.

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 $400,000
Phase III Commercialization No limit Non-SBIR funds (no limit)

NIST’s SBIR program is grant-based, and awards are cooperative agreements.

SBIR Program 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.

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. In some rare and unique circumstances, agencies may allow a particular portion of the R/R&D work to be performed outside the United States. Approval by the funding agreement officer, after consultation with the agency SBIR Program Manager, for any such situation must be in writing.

Joint ventures and limited partnerships are eligible, provided the entity created qualifies as a small business as defined in the 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 effort must be performed by the awardee; for Phase II, a minimum of one-half of the research effort must be performed by the awardee.

Only proposals that are directly responsive to one of the subtopics as described in section 9 of the Solicitation will be considered. Applicants may apply to more than one subtopic.

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 to subtopics and administrative requirements. Proposals passing this initial screening will be technically evaluated by NIST staff knowledgeable in the technical area for 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.

Selection Process

Phase I

All proposals are subject to a comprehensive and rigorous selection process that includes the consideration of:

  • An initial screening to ensure each proposal meets the administrative requirements outlined in the Solicitation and is responsive to one or more of the subtopics listed. Proposals failing to meet these requirements are returned to the proposer without technical review.
  • An in-depth technical evaluation by three independent NIST staff knowledgeable in the specific field of technology of the proposal. This peer evaluation of the proposal is uniform across the agency and made according to pre-determined and announced criteria based on a numerical scale.

Phase II

Only Phase I awardees from the prior year are permitted to submit proposals for a basic research effort in Phase II. These Phase II proposals are subjected to a comprehensive and rigorous selection process that includes the consideration of:

  • An in-depth technical evaluation will be conducted by three NIST staff knowledgeable in the specific field of technology of the proposal. This technical evaluation is made according to pre-determined and announced criteria based on a numerical scale.

This technical review and evaluation is based upon extensive information including the success of the Phase I effort as contained in a final report from the proposer and a commercialization plan developed by the proposer.

Created February 5, 2010, Updated May 23, 2019