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Jessica Chesher

Managing Editor

Innovation eReview
Small Business Innovation Research Program

The Innovation e-Review intereviewed Marcene Sonneborn, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program Specialist for the Central New York Technology Development Organization (TDO). Sonneborn has worked with companies interested in SBIR funding for over 20 years. According to her there are three things businesses should know about the SBIR program:

1. The program funds businesses to conduct truly innovative pre-feasibility R&D that the company would like to take from research into commercial development. It provides an opportunity to obtain a grant or contract (depending on the agency) for up to $150,000 for six months of a feasibility study, referred to as a Phase I. If the feasibility is proven, the company may be able to apply for up to $1 million for a two-year Phase II. After this, the company is expected to commercialize the technology or the development.

2. These funds are awarded as a grant or contract. This is not a loan, so there is no repayment. This also is not an equity investment so the company does not have to give up ownership. This is the best value that there is in government funding. The government's objective is to start successful companies that create jobs and wealthy business owners that enable the U.S. to remain technologically competitive.

3. The company does not need to have a patent to apply for an SBIR, but is expected to protect the company's intellectual property that is developed through this program so that it can be commercialized.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program provides the investment of Federal research funds in domestic small businesses for the research and development of new technologies. It’s a highly competitive program and currently eleven Federal agencies participate. Research and development (R&D) can be very expensive and risky for small businesses, the SBIR program reserves 2.5 percent of Federal agency R&D budgets (that exceed $100 million) specifically for small businesses. This gives US small businesses a chance to compete on the same level as larger businesses.

The eleven current agencies that are participating in the program are: the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce (National Institute of Standards and Technology), the Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation. Each of the agencies administers its own SBIR program but they are all operated within guidelines established by Congress.

To be eligible for the SBIR program businesses have to meet several guidelines, they must be: organized for profit with a place of business in the US, at least 51% owned and controlled by at least one citizen of (or permanent resident alien in) the US or at least 51% owned and controlled by another for-profit business concern that is at least 51% owned and controlled by at least one citizen of (or permanent resident alien in) the US, and comprised of no more than 500 employees, including affiliates.

For more information, individuals can visit the TDO’s SBIR webpage where they can learn more about the organization’s SBIR regional outreach program or contact Marcene Sonneborn directly.

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