You are here

About the U.S. DOT SBIR Program

The U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) is one of 11 federal agencies that participates in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

U.S. DOT SBIR Program

The U.S. DOT SBIR program is a highly competitive, awards-based program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in research or research and development (R/R&D) addressing high priority research areas within U.S. DOT. The U.S. DOT SBIR program favors research that has the potential for commercialization through products and applications sold to the private sector transportation industry, state departments of transportation, U.S. DOT, or other federal agencies. Small businesses that participate in U.S. DOT’s SBIR program have developed numerous new and innovative technologies that have benefitted the department and the public, while providing a basis for growth for small businesses. Over the past five years, the U.S. DOT SBIR program has invested $50 million in qualified small businesses.

The SBIR Program Office publishes one solicitation each fiscal year for proposals on specific research topics of interest to U.S. DOT operating administrations:

  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Federal Highway Administration
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
  • Federal Railroad Administration
  • Federal Transit Administration
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration
  • Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

Getting started: how to apply for a solicitation proposal

U.S. DOT SBIR success stories

Past award winners

Program Structure

The U.S. DOT SBIR Program awards contracts in two phases and recognizes a follow-on Phase III.

The objective of Phase I contracts is to establish the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of the proposal. Phase I awards normally do not exceed $150,000 total costs for 6 months.

Phase II contracts are only available to small businesses that have successfully completed Phase I. The objective of Phase II is to develop and commercialize the Phase I technologies. Contracts awards and normally do not exceed $1,000,000 total costs for 2 years.

Phase III is for small businesses to pursue commercialization objectives resulting from the Phase I and Phase II activities. The SBIR program does not fund Phase III. Where applicable, Phase III may involve follow-on non-SBIR funded R&D or production contracts for products, processes, or services intended for use by the U.S. Government.

SBIR Program Eligibility

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

Learn more about the federal SBIR program

Eleven federal agencies participate in the SBIR program.

Established under the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-219), the federal SBIR program has four main goals:

  1. Stimulate technological innovation
  2. Use small business to meet federal Research/Research & Development (R/R&D) needs
  3. Foster and encourage participation by socially and economically disadvantaged small business companies (SBCs) and by SBCs that are 51 percent owned and controlled by women, in technological innovation
  4. Increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R/R&D, thereby increasing competition, productivity, and economic growth

Manufacturing-Related R&D Emphasis in SBIR

Executive Order (E.O.) 13329 requires Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) agencies, to the extent permitted by law and in a manner consistent with the mission of that department or agency, to give high priority within the SBIR programs to manufacturing-related research and development (R&D). "Manufacturing-related" is defined as "relating to manufacturing processes, equipment and systems; or manufacturing workforce skills and protection."

E.O. 13329 is intended to help ensure that federal agencies properly and effectively assist the private sector in its manufacturing innovation so as to sustain a strong manufacturing sector in the US economy by advancing innovation, including innovation in manufacturing, through small businesses.

Updated: Friday, August 4, 2017
Submit Feedback >