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Program & Applicant Information

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program was established under the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-219), and was last reauthorized in under P.L. 112-81, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. The goal of the program is to provide federal research and development (R&D) funding to stimulate the small business sector and to address national needs while strengthening the national base for technological innovation.

Federal agencies with extramural research and development budgets over $100 million are required to administer SBIR programs using an annual set-aside of 3.2% for small companies to conduct innovative R&D that has potential for commercialization and public benefit. At present, 11 federal agencies provide more than $2.5 billion annually to for-profit small business firms and their partners.

The federal agencies participating in this program include: the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation; the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation. The Department of Education administers its SBIR program through its research office, the Institute of Education Sciences, with an annual budget of $8.4 million.

For more information on the SBIR program and to view the SBIR Policy Directive, please go to www.sbir.gov.

ED/IES SBIR Program Structure

The ED/IES SBIR program includes three phases, the first two of which are supported by government funds.

Phase I is for 8 months in award amounts up to $200,000. A funded Phase I ED/IES SBIR project would be successful if at the end of a 6-month period the team: (1) had developed a functioning prototype of an education technology product, and (2) conducted research to determine the usability, initial feasibility, and promise of the prototype to lead to the intended outcomes.

Phase II is to continue the R&D effort initiated in Phase I, with awards for 2 years in amounts up to $900,000. A funded Phase II ED/IES SBIR project would be successful if at the end of a 2-year period the team: (1) had fully developed a commercially viable education technology product; (2) demonstrated the usability and feasibility, and fidelity of implementing the product in an education delivery setting; (3) evaluated the promise of the product for achieving the intended outcomes when used in classrooms or schools; (4) developed a commercialization plan for the distribution and sustainability of the product, and (5) developed plans to conduct research to evaluate the efficacy of the product to lead to the intended outcomes.

Program Solicitation and Program Competitiveness

ED/IES SBIR typically releases its annual solicitations (also called a "request for proposals") in winter on the FedBizOpps website, with a proposal submission date 45 days later. Awards are typically announced within 90 days after the submission deadline, in late spring and projects begin shortly thereafter.

ED/IES SBIR is a highly competitive program that typically receives between 225 and 250 Phase I proposals each year, and funds 10 to 15 new Phase I awards.

Program Priorities

ED/IES SBIR accepts proposals for research and development (R&D) in three priority areas.

  1. R&D of products for education. Products are intended to either support student learning or teacher instruction or classroom management in pre-kindergarten to grade 16 school settings. Products for student learning and teacher instruction include areas in STEM, reading and writing, language learning, social studies, and for social and behavioral development. Products intended to support adult education include basic mathematics and reading and writing.
  2. R&D of special education products. Products are intended to either support student learning or teacher instruction or classroom management in pre-kindergarten to grade 12 school settings in classes for students with or at risk for disabilities in the content areas above. Products are also intended to be assistive technologies to support to infants, toddlers, or students with or at risk for disabilities, or to support teachers and caregivers, in early intervention or special education settings from birth to grade 12.
  3. R&D of products for school administration. Products are intended to support administrators or personnel in grade K to 12 settings in managing schools.

For more detailed information on the program priorities, including the specific content areas that fit within the priorities, see Section IX of the most recent Phase I program solicitation on this page.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for funding, a small business must be a for-profit organization, have no more than 500 employees, be independently owned, operated, and U.S. based, and be at least 51 percent owned by U.S. citizens or lawfully admitted residents. The principal investigator is required to be employed by the small business at least 51 percent time. The small business must certify that it fits the eligibility requirements at the time of the award and throughout the life-cycle of the award. Partners, including non-profit firms or institutions, are permitted (and encouraged) to collaborate on projects. Such partners can receive up to one-third of the funds in Phase I and one-half of the funds in Phase II, however the small business entity must lead the project.

ED/IES SBIR also accepts proposals from small business concerns that are owned in majority by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, or private equity firms (majority-owned portfolio SBCs). ED/IES SBIR is permitted to allocate up to 15 percent of its annual budget to such companies.

Executive Order 13329 on Encouraging Innovation in Manufacturing

The purpose of Executive Order 13329 is to ensure that Federal agencies assist the private sector in its manufacturing innovation efforts. Manufacturing-related R&D encompasses improvements in existing methods or processes, or wholly new processes, machines or systems. The executive order states that continued technological innovation is critical to a strong manufacturing sector of the United States economy. The executive order recognizes that the commercialization of technologies, products, or services funded through the SBIR and STTR programs play a crucial role in stimulating the U.S. economy. ED/IES SBIR program encourages R&D in manufacturing through systems level technologies. These projects encompass a range of forms of manufacturing, such as artificial intelligence or information technology devices, software, systems, hardware, product design, among others. For more information on Executive Order 13329, please see following document:

To view the most recent ED SBIR Annual Report to SBA on Executive Order 13329 Encouraging Innovation in Manufacturing, see here.

Product Disclaimer

Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government, the US Department of Education, or IES.