The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program is a highly competitive award system that provides qualified domestic small businesses with opportunities to pursue research on and develop innovative solutions to our nation’s transportation challenges. To learn more about the program, read our Overview page and visit SBIR.gov for more information.
Below are frequently asked questions regarding eligibility requirements, proposal submission steps, and additional resources for small businesses.
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
- At least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States, or by other small business concerns that are each at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States
- No more than 500 employees, including affiliates
- The principal investigator must have primary employment with the small business
- Registered on SBA’s SBIR website with an SBC Control ID
The U.S. DOT elects at this time not to use the authority that would allow firms that are majority owned by VCOCs, hedge funds, or private equity firms to participate in the SBIR Program. Proposals submitted by these parties will not be considered for award.
Yes. Firms must meet the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of a small business concern and meet all other eligibility requirements as stated in the solicitation.
Firms that are majority foreign owned and/or majority venture capital operating company (VCOC) owned are not eligible.
Yes. There is no prohibition on venture-backed subcontractors.
It depends. In order to be eligible, a firm must be at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are either citizens of the United States or permanent resident aliens in the United States. All work must be conducted in the United States.
Yes; however, according to the solicitation and the SBIR Policy Directive, at least 2/3 of the work, measured in total contract dollars, must be performed by the small business awarded the contract for a Phase I award.
Yes. Universities are considered subcontractors or consultants and count towards the ratio of work. According to the SBIR Policy Directive, at least 2/3 of the work, measured in total contract dollars, must be performed by the small business awarded the contract for a Phase I award.
Subcontractors must also be in the United States. In very rare circumstances, a Government contracting officer (CO) may approve the use of a foreign subcontractor, but it would have to be well documented as to why the foreign subcontractor is the only one capable of meeting a requirement and requires pre-approval in writing from the CO. The SBIR Policy Directive states, “The R/R&D work must be performed in the United States. However, based on a rare and unique circumstance, agencies may approve a particular portion of the R/R&D work to be performed or obtained in a country outside of the United States, for example, if a supply or material or other item or project requirement is not available in the United States. The funding agreement officer must approve each such specific condition in writing.”
An offer would not be declined due to proposing a foreign subcontractor; however, it should be thoroughly explained within the offer as to why a foreign subcontractor is proposed. If the particular offer is chosen for award based on the evaluation, then further details and approval by the CO to utilize the foreign subcontractor will be worked out during the negotiation/award process.