History of NASA SBIR & STTR Programs

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program was established by Congress in 1982 to provide increased opportunities for small businesses to participate in R&D, to increase employment, and to improve U.S. competitiveness. The program's specific objectives are to stimulate U.S. technological innovation, use small businesses to meet federal research and development needs, increase private-sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R&D, and foster and encourage participation by socially disadvantaged businesses. Legislation enacted in 2000 extended and strengthened the SBIR program and increased its emphasis on pursuing commercial applications of SBIR project results.

The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program awards contracts to small business concerns for cooperative research and development with a non-profit research institution (RI), such as a university. The goal of the Congress in establishing the STTR program is to facilitate the transfer of technology developed by an RI through the entrepreneurship of a small business. The small business and its partnering institution are required to sign an agreement on how intellectual property will be shared between them.

Modeled after the SBIR Program with the same basic requirements and phased funding structure, STTR is nevertheless a separate activity and is separately funded. It differs from SBIR in several important aspects:

  • STTR is a smaller program. The funding set-aside is 0.15 % of the extra-mural R&D budget, approximately one-twentieth of the amount for SBIR. The small company must take the research and intellectual property of the research institution and convert it into a useful product. In comparison to SBIR, twice as much time is allowed for performance of the Phase I, but at about a 40% higher funding level. However, the Phase II activity is at a lower funding level than SBIR, while still lasting up to two years. Also, while the proposal is still submitted by the SBC, at least 30% of the funding and work must originate with the RI, while only a minimum of 40% must come from the SBC. Phase I STTR projects receive up to $100,000 in funds for a one-year effort. Phase II is limited to $500,000 for two years.
  • STTR solicitations are based on the NASA Centers of Excellence, one of which is located at each NASA field installation, except the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is a federally funded research laboratory and as such is eligible to apply for STTR funding. There are no subtopics.
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