What is the SBIR/STTR Program? 

Since 1982, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs have served as the nation’s largest sources of early stage/high-risk funding for start-ups and small businesses.1 There are eleven Federal Agencies that participate annually in the SBIR program and five participating in the STTR program.   

Since their inception, these highly competitive programs have awarded well over $53 Billion to innovative small business concerns. They exist “to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of Federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy.” 2 

At Long Capture, we see the SBIR/STTR programs as a gateway to doing business with the government. As a military veteran and spouses’ team, we have focused attention on and expertise in the Department of Defense SBIR/STTR program. We value impact-driven work that ultimately meets critical warfighter needs and supports the nation’s research and development (R&D) efforts. This article will focus on Phase I of the DoD SBIR/STTR program.   

Who is Eligible?  

The DoD’s annual SBIR/STTR budget is upwards of $1.8 billion per year—the largest of any participating agency! To get your piece of that pie, you must be a registered, domestically owned, for-profit, innovative small business with less than 500 employees. Small companies with strong R&D capabilities that also possess the experience and team to commercialize the results are highly encouraged to apply. 

The Purpose of Phase I  

Each component of the DoD (Air Force, Navy, Army, etc.) has varying requirements, periods of performance, and award amounts for Phase I, but at the heart of each Phase I is an R&D-based feasibility study.  

According to SBIR.gov, “The objective of Phase I is to establish the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of the proposed R/R&D efforts and to determine the quality of performance of the small business awardee organization prior to providing further Federal support in Phase II.” 3  

Successful execution of Phase I sets your business up for prototyping in Phase II and production in Phase III. The primary objectives of Phase I are to: 

  • Fully understand the problem of the end-user 
  • Articulate how your innovative solution meets the needs of the warfighter Demonstrate the technical feasibility of integrating your solution into the end-user’s mission set 
  • Conduct customer discovery to find a wide swath of additional stakeholders 

The True Value of Phase I 

Phase I awards vary in amount from $50K to $150K depending upon the specific solicitation you are applying to, but the actual value of Phase I is not in the award size. At Long Capture, we see three main advantages to the SBIR/STTR program: 

1) Non-Dilutive Capital. You do not give up equity in your company. The funding you receive from the SBIR/STTR program allows you to conduct R&D with no strings attached. What the government gets in return from the R&D effort is a product that benefits the warfighter.  

2) Dual-Use Commercialization. With a solution that benefits and is sold to the government as well as the commercial industry, you are tapping into two markets simultaneously! This commercialization strategy helps to de-risk the solution for the government stakeholders, but it allows your company to scale your technology much faster. 

3) Sole Source Eligibility. As noted in the beginning, we at Long Capture see the SBIR/STTR program as one of the best ways to get your foot in the door with government contracting. The biggest prize from a Phase I win is sole source eligibility. By law, when the government wants to purchase something, it must hold a full and open competition to find the best value for the government. With a Phase I win, however, you are authorized by law as an exception to the competition requirements within any federal agency for any follow-on contract that derives from or extends the work completed under Phase I. Sole source eligibility is the key that unlocks the door to a long-term winning strategy! 

And as a bonus, you are helping America’s heroes get the most cutting-edge technology available to do their jobs! 

When to Apply 

With DoD SBIR/STTRs, we generally see 3 proposal cycles per year. The last cycle for 2021 is coming soon! Pre-Release (a one-month period when your firm may engage with the Technical Points of Contact (TPOC) for the various topics) is scheduled for August 25th. The solicitation officially opens for submissions beginning September 23rd, with a deadline of October 22nd. While this may seem like a long time from now, proposal success comes from having a solid strategy initially, which takes time to implement well. Now is the time that you want to be talking with Long Capture to have us in your corner guiding you through the process this proposal season!