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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs at the NIDCR

Contact: Dr. R. Dwayne Lunsford, 301-594-2421


What are SBIR and STTR?
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) research programs as established by law (SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011) are intended to meet the following goals: stimulate technological innovation in the private sector; strengthen the role of small business in meeting Federal research and development (R&D) needs; increase the commercial application of Federally-supported research results; foster and encourage participation by socially and economically disadvantaged small business concerns (SBCs) and women-owned business concerns; and improve the return on investment from Federally-funded research for economic and social benefits to the Nation.

The SBIR and STTR programs are structured in three phases, the first two of which are supported using Federal funds. The objective of Phase I is to establish the technical/scientific merit and feasibility of the proposed research and development (R&D) effort. The objective of Phase II is to continue the research or R&D efforts initiated in Phase I. The primary objective of the SBIR and STTR programs is to increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal R&D. The objective of Phase III, where appropriate, is for the SBC to pursue with non-SBIR/STTR funds (either Federal or non-Federal) the commercialization objectives resulting from the results of the research funded in Phases I and II. The SBIR and STTR programs differ in two ways, one relates to the Principal Investigator (PI) and the other relates to a research partner. Under SBIR, the PI must be primarily employed with the SBC at the time of award and for the duration of the project period. Under the STTR Program, primary employment is not stipulated so the PI may be from the small business or the collaborating non-profit research institution. With regard to the research partner, SBIR permits, and in fact, encourages, research partnerships. However, STTR requires that the SBC formally collaborate with a non-profit research institution.

SBIR/STTR Eligibility

  • An organized for-profit U.S. business
  • At least 51 percent U.S.-owned by individuals and independently operated, OR owned and controlled by one other eligible entity
  • A small business located in and conducting operations in the U.S.
  • The principal investigator’s primary employment must be with the small business during the project
  • Must have fewer than 500 employees including affiliates

SBIR vs. STTR: Critical Differences

Research Partners

  • SBIR:  Permits (encourages) research institution partners (about 33 percent in Phase 1 and 50 percent in Phase II R&D)
  • STTR: Requires research institution partners (e.g. universities) (40 percent small business and 30 percent research institution)

Principal Investigator

  • SBIR: Primary (greater than 50 percent) employment must be with small business
  • STTR: Primary employment not stipulated (research institution and/or small business)
  • In both cases, the award always is made to the small business concern.

For more information see:

Additional Information
For further information about the NIDCR SBIR/STTR Program, please contact:

Dwayne Lunsford

R. Dwayne Lunsford, Ph.D.
Coordinator, SBIR/STTR Program
Director, Microbiology Program
Integrative Biology and Infectious Diseases Branch
Division of Extramural Research
National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
National Institutes of Health
6701 Democracy Blvd., Room 626 (MSC 4878)
Bethesda, MD 20892-4878
*(Courier please use: MD 20817)
Telephone: (301) 594-2421
Fax: (301) 480-8319

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This page last updated: September 26, 2014