SBIR / STTR Frequently Asked Questions



Find answers and general information about the SBIR/STTR programs.

What is the difference between the SBIR and the STTR programs, and which one is better?

Differences between the SBIR and STTR program include:

  • SBIR allows collaboration with non-profit research institutions or federal research laboratories, like a university and STTR requires it
  • The amounts of money in each program with SBIR representing the largest amount of funding
  • Definitions of a pricipal investigator

There is no right or wrong program. Choosing a program is a strategic decision that is based on your company’s situation and needs. However, there are some notable differences in the funding levels and some differences in the rules of eligibility between the two programs. More agencies participate in the SBIR program than the STTR program. Thus, SBIR programs have more total funds available. However, with STTR awards, the businesses do not need to employ the Principal Investigator, thus a PI can continue working for the University or nonprofit research institution if that is desirable.

What are the qualifications a Small Businesses to participate?

  • Meet the qualifications by SBA regulation 13 C.F.R. §§ 701-705 at the time of the award
  • Be at least 51% owned, or have at least 51% of its voting stock owned, by US Citizen or lawfully admitted permanent
  • Be for-profit located in the US

What is the difference between an SBIR solicitation and a pre-solicitation announcement?

SBIR solicitations are specific requests for proposals released by the federal agencies participating in the program which may result in the award of Phase I SBIR funding agreements.


SBIR pre-solicitation announcements, released by SBA, contain pertinent data on SBIR solicitations such as research topic areas that are about to be released by the participating federal agencies.

How would I benefit from the SBIR/STTR program?

There is over $2 billion available annually in SBIR/STTR awards! SBIR/STTR funding is an excellent way of starting your business with non-dilutive capital, so you're not giving up equity or assuming debt. Other benefits include:

  • Winning an SBIR/STTR award often helps attract follow-on financing and/or licensing deal as it often provides verification that the technology is likely to have commercial value
  • Your firm retains rights to the intellectual property developed with an award
  • SBIR/STTR awards qualifies small businesses to bid non-competitively for sole-source contracts with funding agencies for the developed technology
  • The program is designed to assist small businesses with over 60% of the awardees of Phase I grants having less than 25 employees

What is the difference between a grant and a contract?

Funding agencies vary on providing grants or contracts as the funding mechanism. A grant is an agreement to carry out your research in return for a monetary award of funding. The federal government funds research and innovation of public benefit in this way. Grant topics are generally initiated by the researcher applying for the grant, also known as the Principal Investigator an academic setting. A granting agency does not wish to become your customer.

A contract is an agreement to provide a product or service that is needed by the agency awarding the contract. An example of this would be the procurement of new military technology by the Department of Defense. In this instance, the military becomes your customer.

Who is the Principal Investigator?

The Principal Investigator is the person responsible for overseeing the research typically, this individual has designed and overseen research efforts in the past, although if you have not done so, we can help you find ways to compensate for that.

The Principal Investigator, or PI, must commit to leading the project which typically involves taking at least partial employment at the small business at the time of the award. This does not preclude partial employment at a university or elsewhere, and in certain case, there are exceptions to this rule.

How much time will it take to complete my SBIR/STTR Phase I proposal?

For first-time SBIR/STTR proposal writers, it is advisable to start working on a Phase I proposal at least 8 weeks before the due date. Successful proposals require a substantial amount of work. The proposal author(s) should be proactive in soliciting feedback from experienced reviewers at every stage in the drafting process.

What are the solicitations dates?

Solicitation close dates vary by agency, although an important consideration is that many of them occur only once per year. Please see us for assistance or visit our Open Solicitations section to learn more.

Who reviews my SBIR/STTR proposals?

Depending on agency, SBIR/STTR proposals may undergo an internal review, an external review, or a review that incorporates both internal and external reviewers. With internal reviews, agency members review the SBIR proposal. External reviews involve a review by people outside of the agency, such as university personnel or other experts in the field.

The Department of Defense, the Department of Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the Department of Transportation all use an internal review process. NASA uses both internal reviewers and at least two independent reviewers. The NIH uses dual review systems comprised of an external peer review panel, and advisory panel, and an internal review group. The NSF uses ad hoc external review panels. USDA proposals are reviewed by a separate review panel for each topic area; proposals are subsequently reviewed by an ad hoc review panel.

How do I know if I meet the funding agency's requirements?

SBIR/STTR applications are evaluated on the basis of the following core review criteria:

  • Technical Merit
  • Team Qualifications
  • Value to Agency
  • Potential for Commercialization
  • Cost/Cost Realism

Each SBIR agency has different priorities in terms of these evaluation criteria. Remember, it is important to receive specific agency SBIR and STTR review criteria, so consult the SBIR program information on agency websites and contact agency SBIR/STTR program leaders. Please allow enough time for the SBIR/STTR program leader to respond to your request and be aware of closing dates.

Can I apply for a Phase II without competing for a Phase I?

Technically, yes. The NIH, DoD, and DoEd recently were authorized to award Phase II awards to firms that have not received a previous Phase I award. These three agencies are allowed, but not required to offer this provision. You will want to confirm this with the program manager before submitting a proposal.

May I submit proposals responding to solicitations from more than one federal agency?

The proposal can be tailored to match the interests, priorities and unique requirements of multiple agencies. (Since each agency has different needs and areas of emphasis, it is important to custom tailor each proposal to fit the agency.)

The agencies do require that you disclose in each proposal whether you are submitting a “similar or related idea” to other agencies. It is important to disclose not only how multiple proposal submissions may be similar, but also how they are different. If there are substantial and important differences between the proposals that are submitted to multiple agencies, and more than one agency wants to give you an award, it is possible to accept multiple awards, as long as the agencies agree to it.

However, if the proposals are duplicative, and multiple agencies are interested in giving your company a SBIR/STTR award, then you can legally only accept one offer.

Can I submit the same proposal multiple times within the same agency?

The agencies differ considerably on how they view multiple proposals on one topic in their solicitation. They may have different rules about submitting the same idea in multiple proposals, and whether an idea can be submitted for consideration under both SBIR and STTR programs. It is important to read the specific agency’s solicitation guidelines carefully before submitting your proposal multiple times to the same agency.

Am I eligible for SBIR/STTR funding if I have already received investments from venture capital, hedge funds, or private equity?

Can I apply for an SBIR award if I am working full time at a University or with a company?

Yes, you may. However, to be eligible for SBIR funding, the Principal Investigator must be primarily employed by the business at the time of the award. There are nuances about this matter, so it's best to discuss with your CTC consultant and read the agency solicitation thoroughly.

What are my chances of winning an SBIR Award?

SBIR success ratios for Phase I range from between 1 to 5 and 1 to 15.

SBIR success ratios for Phase II range from between 1 to 2 and 1 to 3.

Angel funding success rations are between 1-5%

Check out each agency for more details on the funding ratios. Remember, unlike angel and venture capital funding, SBIR/STTR funding is non-dilutive.

Agency FAQ Links

For more detailed information regarding individual agency’s programs, check out the agency FAQ link: