Funding is a concern for many startups and small business creating new products. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is a congressionally authorized, federal program that may be an option for funding for some of those businesses operating in select fields of technology. Two of the key driving policies of the program are to help the government agencies solve their problems and to bring innovative solutions to the public. Even though there is no man in a question-mark covered suit marketing the SBIR program, it is real and money has been and is currently being awarded. To be sure, the program is only available in select situations and is a difficult process. That being said, eligibility and successfully completing the process brings two key advantages:
- Funding – The recipient can receive from about $100k in early phases to slightly less than $1,000,000 throughout the phases of a project.
- Intellectual property – The recipient maintains substantial ownership of the involved intellectual property.
The program primarily operates at the agency level. An agency may have a very specific problem that needs to be solved or may be open to solutions to more broad problems. The range of problems is broad as some of the participating agencies include the Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, and NASA. Those agencies create a diverse technological demand, which makes the SBIR program worth exploring for a lot of innovators. The titles of some prior awarded projects under the program indicate research across the spectrum and include:
- Color Sorting of Post-Consumer Glass and Plastic Containers to Improve Their Recyclability
- Improving Business-Consumer Commerce Via Mobile Social Networking Services
- Household Hazardous Substances Data System
- Hearing Aid Connectivity to Consumer Electronics
- Device For Aiding Memory Dysfunction in Elderly
- A Pollution Free Aerosol Dispenser
The first major step in seeking SBIR funding involves identifying the timing and solicitation topics of the various agencies. The agencies themselves do not post all SBIR solicitations in one location. They are typically posted on the individual agencies’ websites. However, there are some sites to aid your cross-agency search. The Zyn website allows robust searching of SBIR solicitation data.
The next major step involves registering and completing a detailed application in response to a solicitation. The instructions vary by agency and are complicated. The instructions must be followed with diligence or the application may be rejected without substantial review. In fact, about half of applications are rejected because of noncompliance with the rules. The application will take significant time to complete, as it involves detailed project planning, staff information, commercialization strategies, cost information, and other data requirements.
The Small Business Innovation Research program is arduous, but can be worth the reward and should be explored as an option for funding your innovations!