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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is U.S. DOT SBIR?

A: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) is a congressionally mandated program signed into law by the President on July 22, 1982, and reauthorized on October 28, 1992, which seeks to encourage the initiative of the private sector and to use small businesses as effectively as possible in meeting federal research and development objectives.

In the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) these initiatives are directed to high priority transportation research and development requirements in the operating administrations.

Q: What is the purpose of the U.S. DOT SBIR program?

A: The U.S. DOT SBIR program's purpose is to stimulate technological innovations in departmental programs utilizing, to the degree possible, the valuable resources and creative capabilities of the small business community in the United States.

Q: How is the program funded?

A: Public Law 112-81, Section 5012 requires a specific percentage of U.S. DOT’s extramural research and development (R&D) budget be allocated for SBIR. For fiscal year 2014, each U.S. DOT operating administration contributes at least 2.8% of its extramural R&D budget to the program.

Q: Who is eligible to participate in the U.S. DOT’s SBIR program?

A: Only United States small businesses are eligible to participate in the SBIR program. Businesses must meet all of the following criteria at the time of Phase I and II awards:

  • Organized for profit, with a place of business located in the United States
  • No more than 500 employees, including affiliates
  • The principal investigator must have primary employment with the small business
  • At least 51 percent owned and controlled by either one or more individuals who are citizens of, or permanent resident aliens in, the United States OR by another for-profit business concern that is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are citizens of, or permanent resident aliens in, the United States

Q: When will the next U.S. DOT SBIR solicitation be released? How can I obtain a copy?

A: The U.S. DOT solicitation is released twice a year. The solicitations will not be available in paper form, but will be available for viewing on the U.S.DOT SBIR web site ( and as a downloadable file in Microsoft Word and PDF formats.

Sign up to receive notifications when a new solicitation opens.

Q: I have an idea that doesn't match any topics in the U.S. DOT SBIR solicitation. What should I do?

A: Visit the U.S. DOT Small Business Web Page ( and Federal Business Opportunities (FedBizOpps) to search for contract opportunities which match your idea and/or your capabilities. FedBizOpps is the primary location to learn about U.S. DOT contract opportunities.

You can also suggest a topic for consideration. All submissions will be reviewed; however, not all topics will be included in future solicitations. If your topic is included in a future solicitation, then all qualified small businesses will have the opportunity to submit a proposal for that topic.

Q: Are unsolicited proposals accepted for the U.S. DOT SBIR program?

A: No. A proposal must respond to an existing research topic in an open solicitation.

Q: Can an SBIR Phase III follow-on funding contract be made, without competition, to the firm that successfully completes Phase I and II?

A: Yes. The firm may be given a sole source contract for further work or production that derives from, extends, or completes earlier SBIR work. Such follow-on work must be given Phase III status by the agency.

Q. What is the Small Business Administration (SBA) Company Registry?

A: The Company Registry is a new element of the SBIR data system and application process. A small business must register in the company registry in order to submit a proposal for any SBIR solicitation. Once you have registered, your company will be given an SBIR ID number that you will use when applying to any SBIR agency solicitation. The SBA Company Registry is located here:

Q. Do I need to register in the System for Award Management (SAM) in order to submit a proposal for a U.S. DOT SBIR solicitation? 

A. No. It is federally mandated that any business wishing to do business with the federal government under a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR)-based contract must be registered in SAM before being awarded a contract. The SAM website provides information on registering. You can register online by following the prompts if you already have a DUNS number. If you need a DUNS number, you can find instructions at

Q: How can I learn more about the SBIR program?

A: There are many ways to learn more about the SBIR program:

Updated: Thursday, December 18, 2014