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Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

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CFDA Number: 84.133S; 84.305S
Program Type: Discretionary/Competitive Grants, Contracts
Also Known As: SBIR

Program Description

This program funds research and development projects that propose a sound approach to the investigation of an important education or assistive technology, science, or engineering question under topics identified each year in the solicitation. The purpose of the program is to: stimulate technological innovation; increase small business participation in federal research and development; foster and encourage participation by minority and disadvantaged persons in technological innovation; and increase private sector commercialization of technology derived from federal research and development.

Types of Projects

Each year, the program funds Phase I feasibility projects for approximately six months. After completion of the Phase I stage, most of these businesses can compete for Phase II awards. Phase II awards can last up to 24 months.

Additional Information

In 1982 the U.S. Congress established the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program to stimulate technological innovation, utilize small business to meet federal research and development needs, and increase private sector commercialization.

SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small business to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the United States gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.

The SBIR program is structured in three phases, the first two of which are supported by SBIR funds.

  • Phase I.
    The objective of Phase I is to determine the scientific or technical merit and feasibility of the proposed R/R&D efforts. The Phase I period concentrates on the R/R&D efforts that prove the scientific or technical feasibility of the approach or concept and that which are a prerequisite for further ED support in Phase II. Phase I awards are for periods up to 6 months in amounts as indicated in the Notice Inviting Applications.

  • Phase II.
    The objective of Phase II is to continue the research or R&D effort initiated in Phase I with approaches that appear sufficiently promising as a result of Phase I. Phase II awards are for periods up to 2 years in amounts as indicated in the Notice Inviting Applications.

  • Phase III.
    An objective of the SBIR program is to increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal R/R&D. During Phase III, the small business concern is to pursue commercialization with non-SBIR funds. The Department of Education does not provide funding during the Phase III period.


There are 11 federal agencies which participate in this program, including: the Departments of Education (ED), Agriculture (USDA), Commerce (DOC), Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE), Health and Human Services (DHHS), Homeland Security (DHS), and Transportation (DOT); the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program is administered similarly by each of these departments.

Two offices in the Department of Education (ED) have SBIR Programs, including the:

These offices typically hold one annual competition. The Phase I program announcement is normally released in winter to early spring, and closes about 2 months later. The start date for awardees is before the end of the fiscal year.

The program announcements provide comprehensive information, including:

  • Background on the SBIR program;
  • Topical/Priority areas;
  • Information sources and Departmental contacts;
  • Evaluation criteria; and,
  • Other related program information (rights in technical data, copyrights, patents, and equipment).

After final award decisions are made, all applicants are sent the technical evaluations. These are normally mailed six to eight weeks following the announcement of the awards. The identity of the reviewers will not be disclosed.


If at any time you become aware of fraud, waste, abuse, or any kind of wrongdoing under any SBIR award, please contact the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The ED Office of Inspector General Hotline accepts tips from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in Department of Education programs. The reporting individual should indicate that the fraud, waste and/or abuse concerns an SBIR grant or contract, if relevant.

For more information, please visit the ED OIG Website:

The ED OIG toll free Hotline number is: 1-800-MIS-USED.
(Please note: Hotline Operators take calls during the hours of Monday and Wednesday 9:00 AM until 11:00 AM, Eastern Time; Tuesday and Thursday, 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM, Eastern Time except for holidays.)

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Last Modified: 04/01/2015