Introduction to the Program:
In 1977, the National Science Foundation (NSF) piloted and subsequently instituted the “Small Business Innovation Applied to National Needs” program, a precursor to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and a first of its kind within the federal government. The goal of this program was to catalyze the innovative capabilities of small firms within the United States by supporting “high-risk, potentially high-payoff” projects . The NSF SBIR/STTR program solicits proposals from small businesses based on groundbreaking scientific discoveries or significant engineering breakthroughs consistent with NSF's mission to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; and to secure the national defense. This NSF program is governed by 15 U.S.C. 638 and the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, as amended (42 U.S.C. 1861 et seq.).The current NSF SBIR/STTR program continues this legacy of supporting the translation of scientific discovery into products and services with commercial potential and/or societal benefit. Unlike fundamental or basic research activities that focus on scientific and engineering discovery itself, the NSF SBIR/STTR program supports the creation of opportunities to move discoveries founded from fundamental science and engineering out of the lab and into the market or other use at scale, through startups and small businesses.
The NSF SBIR/STTR program provides non-dilutive research and development funding at the earliest stages of technology development.
Synopsis of Program:
The NSF SBIR/STTR program supports moving scientific excellence and technological innovation from the lab to the market. By funding startups and small businesses, NSF hopes to build a strong national economy and stimulate the creation of novel products, services, and solutions in the private sector with potential for broad impact; strengthen the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs; increase the commercial application of federally supported research results; and develop and increase the US workforce, especially by fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses.
The NSF SBIR/STTR program welcomes proposals from many topics and does not have a specific technological focus (please see website at https://seedfund.nsf.gov/portfolio/ for a listing of topics and cognizant Program staff). The program is open to proposals focusing on technical and market areas not explicitly noted, and such proposals should be submitted to "Other Topics".
 R. T. Tibbetts, "NSF's three-phase program helps the small-business innovator bootstrap an idea to commercial success," in IEEE Spectrum, vol. 15, no. 10, pp. 86-86, Oct. 1978, doi: 10.1109/MSPEC.1978.6367918.
Since all NSF Phase II SBIR/STTR proposers are already associated with an NSF SBIR/STTR Phase I award, Phase II proposers are strongly encouraged to use their cognizant NSF SBIR/STTR Phase I Program Officer as the primary point of contact for any questions. The contact above can be used for other inquiries, or when proposers are not sure who to contact. Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.
Contact Your NSF Phase I Program Officer