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Funding Opportunities in DoD's Small Business Innovation Research: What You Need to Know

government contracting Jan 10, 2024
Lightbulb with plan for innovation

In case you missed it, as of January 3rd, the DoD Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) 24.1 funding opportunities are live! Need a quick refresher on whether this is something you should be tracking (and pursuing)? No problem – we've got you covered!

What is SBIR?

SBIR is commonly called America's Seed Fund. The program was established in 1982 to harness small businesses to drive federal innovation through research that will benefit the Nation. So, what does that mean? Basically, under the SBIR program, small businesses can receive funding via a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to develop new and innovative products that have the potential to benefit the Government with no strings attached. Businesses do not give up equity or rights to intellectual property and are not required to return the funding. The Government-wide SBIR program is funded at more than $4B annually in non-dilutive grants to small businesses working on innovative technology and research.

If you want to learn more about SBIR and America’s Seed Fund, the Small Business Administration is hosting the 2024 Virtual Road Tour on Jan. 23-25. This three-day virtual event will help you understand America’s Seed Fund and connect with federal agencies that use SBIR and Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) funds. Check it out!

Who is eligible for the SBIR programs?

As the name implies, the SBIR program is limited to businesses that qualify as a Small Business Concern, are owned by a U.S. Citizen, and have no more than 500 employees. The program is focused on innovative research and technology products; it is not a vehicle for staffing or service contracts. Fun Fact: The SIBR application process does not require past performance, which is one of the reasons it is an attractive entry point to government contracting. In fact, 30% of NASA's SBIR/STTR contracts were to first-time awardees. The government encourages companies with strong R&D capabilities and the ability to commercialize products to apply to the program.

How do I know what the DoD is looking for?

Conveniently, each funding opportunity release will have specific topics associated with that application period. So, the first step is ensuring your product or technology aligns with one of these topics. You can review the 186 active DoD SBIR 24.1 topics here. If you’re brand new to SBIRs, it’s important to keep in mind that the government broadcasts these topics before they go “live,” so if there’s nothing on this release that aligns with your capabilities, you can check back in a few months to see what’s planned for future application periods. Note: the current application period closes on Feb. 7, 2024, and the next release (featuring a new set of topics) will open on May 15, 2024 (topics will be available to review starting April 17, 2024).  

What about these “Phases”?

Remember, this program exists to help fuel small business innovation research, so only some great ideas for a prototype or product are going to make it to market, so to speak. For this reason, the government breaks the projects (and funding) down into phases. The DoD SBIR 24.1 BAA includes Phase One (PHI) and Direct to Phase Two (D2P2) opportunities. PH1 SBIRs are typically technology feasibility studies and are funded at around $100K for a six-month period of performance. A D2P2 SBIR award is for small businesses that have already performed the PH1 research through other sources. D2P2 awards are funded for $750K to $1.25M (depending on the funding agency) and typically have a 15–18-month period of performance. The objective of a D2P2 is a continuation of research and development while increasing the focus on commercialization. Phase Three (PHIII) SBIRs can be awarded exclusively to PHII or D2P2 contract holders and are intended for work that extends or completes the work done under the prior SBIR contract; however, a PHIII is funded by sources other than the SBIR Program. A PHIII SBIR comes with many advantages, including SBIR data rights, the right to a sole source contract, no limits on the dollar size of the PHIII contract, and more. (Want to learn more? Check out the FAQ page here!)

How do I apply?

First, the SBIR application process is managed through the Defense SBIR/STTR Innovation Portal (DISP) and requires the company to be registered on DISP,, and The proposal requirements vary between offering agencies, but three sections are fairly standard for DoD proposals. These include a technical volume, cost volume, and commercialization report. If you’re used to responding to solicitations for services, take note: within the technical volume of a SBIR, rather than describing your approach to fulfilling a set of requirements established by the government, you, as the offeror, must create and submit a Statement of Work that outlines the work you will do. In a SBIR proposal, since you are developing the technology, the onus falls on the small business to convince the reviewer of your ability to do the work. Also, don't underestimate the commercialization report! In the commercialization report, the Government is looking for your company's strategy for commercializing this technology in DoD, other Federal Agencies, and/or private sector markets. You’ll need to provide specific information on the market need the technology will address and the size of the market, along with a schedule showing expected quantitative results.

How hard is it to win a SBIR?

It's worth inserting a note of caution here that SBIRs are highly competitive: in 2019, the acceptance rate was only 19% for Phase I (PHI). That’s why it’s important to research and ensure your proposal is compliant and compelling. Whether you need help finding the right SBIR topic to apply for (or customer to sell to!) or need an unbiased review of your value proposition, Trident staff are ready to help! And don’t forget - if you aren’t ready for this round of DoD topics, plenty more opportunities exist. Eleven federal agencies (think the National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Department of Transportation, etc.) participate in the SBIR program and post SBIR opportunities throughout the year. Whether this is your first or 15th SBIR, we can help you find the best pathway to accelerate your innovation!

Written by Carrie Powell 

Carrie is a proposal and capture manager at Trident. Her skills include proposal support, GWAC experience, and a SBIR proposal support and management background. As a U.S. Navy veteran and military spouse based in Seattle, WA, she supports clients around the world as part of our globally dispersed team. 

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