Last Updated November 4, 2009
Small Business Innovative Research Program (SBIR)
Stimulating participation in technological innovation and commercialization by small businesses
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a government-wide program that provides competitive research funding for qualified small businesses. There are eleven federal agencies that participate in SBIR that include, Dept. of Agriculture, Dept. of Commerce, Dept. of Defense, Dept. of Education, Dept. of Energy, Dept. of Health and Human Services (primarily the National Institutes of Health), Dept. of Homeland Security, Dept. of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and National Science Foundation. Each agency administers its own SBIR program but the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Innovation, Research, and Technology (www.sba.gov/sbir) oversees the SBIR program across the federal government.
The objectives of the SBIR Program are to stimulate technological innovations in the private sector, strengthen the role of small businesses in meeting federal research and development needs, increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from agency-supported research and development efforts, and foster and encourage participation by women-owned and socially and economically disadvantaged small business firms in technological innovations.
The SBIR grant program is divided into two phases. Phase I supports technical feasibility studies. Phase II provides financial assistance for Phase I projects to enter the development stage to the point of commercialization. Businesses are encouraged to pursue Phase III — commercialization — through other sources, as SBIR does not provide funding for expansion, marketing, and application of the developed technology.
The USDA SBIR program awards grants in the following 12 topic categories: forests and related resources; plant production and protection - biology; animal production and protection; air, water, and soils; food science and nutrition; rural and community development; aquaculture; biofuels and biobased products; marketing and trade; animal manure management; small and mid-size farms and plant production and protection - engineering.
USDA SBIR Project Examples
- High Efficiency Trail Assessment Process for Rural Trails: Beneficial Designs Inc, NV was awarded an $80,000 Phase I grant to integrate new and existing technologies to create a high efficiency trail assessment (HETAP) instrument that will enable the collection of objective information in a timely and cost-efficient manner. With over 80% of Americans using trails for walking and other activities, both trail users and land managers would obtain substantial benefits from the availability of objective information in outdoor, natural environments. It is anticipated that the need for an efficient measurement system will increase as the proposed Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed areas are formalized.
- Passive Self-Regulating Denitrification Technology for Aquaculture: Aquaculture Systems Technologies, LLC, LA received a grant for $77,267 to investigate the potential for using Polyhydroxyalkanotes (PHAs), a biodegradable biopolymer, produced from sugar fermentation, as an alternative carbon source for denitrification in recirculating aquaculture systems. The denitrification capability of PHA will be quantified and a predictive computer model will be developed for estimating PHA carbon release as a system design tool. Additionally, the commercial feasibility of employing PHAs as a simple, low-cost alternative to the relatively complex existing treatment methods will be investigated.
- Goldenseal, Germplasm Improvement Through Micropropagation: Under the Rural Development Topic area Sleepy Hollow Farm, GA received an $80,000 grant to adapt an existing technology, micro-propagation, to address an important need in the fledging medicinal plant industry, high quality planting stock development. It will determine the suitability of a basic micro-propagation system for Hydrastis canadensis, developed at the university level, for commercial production.
- Developing an Artificial Diet for the Honey Bee: S.A.F.E R&D, NV Received a $296,000 grant to address the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which has been linked to the 40-60 percent decline in America 's honeybee populations whose pollination is valued at $15 billion annually to U.S. agriculture. This research advanced honey bee nutrition and provided beekeepers a tool to improve honey bee vigor.
- Pneumatic Conveyance Technology for Native Seed Harvesters: Arbuckle Ranch, Inc., MO received a grant for $296,000 to address issues with harvesting seeds. The native seed industry is growing rapidly to meet increasing demand for more seed species in commercial quantities. However, the morphology of the seed of many important species of native grasses makes them difficult to harvest resulting in limited supplies and high prices. Combines and other conventional harvesters such as strippers are often unable to effectively carry out one or more of the key steps of harvest: 1) dislodgement, 2) separation, 3) conveyance, and 4) offloading. This creates an opportunity for new devices such as the pneumatic conveyance system on the Arbuckle Native Seedster that improve seed handling efficiency and overall productivity.
Application and Financial Information
Phase I grants are for 8 months and do not exceed $90,000. Phase II grants are for 24 months and do not exceed $400,000. Permission for no-cost extensions may be granted.
Applications in the form of program solicitations are generally available and open in early June and close in early September. Pre-applications and proposals are not accepted, but advice may be sought from the SBIR program office at any time at 202-401-4002.
Eligibility, Uses and Restrictions
To be eligible for Phase I or Phase II grants, the business, which can be a small farm, cannot have more than 500 employees (full time, part-time, temporary, or other). Only Phase I winners are eligible to submit Phase II proposals. The principal investigator must work for the small business a minimum of 51% of his/her time.
The program solicitation, proposal preparation instructions, evaluation criteria, considerations, information sources, research topic descriptions, technical abstracts, and information on upcoming national conferences are available on the USDA SBIR website.
SBIR Program Office
Dr. Charles F. Cleland
SBIR National Program Leader
Dr. William Goldner
SBIR National Program Leader