Deciding between SBIR and STTR

Differences between the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs
Description of program features or requirements SBIR STTR
Partnering requirement Allows partnering Requires a non-profit research institution partner
Principal investigator Primary employment (>50%) must be with the small business PI may be employed by either the research institution partner or small business (check solicitation)
Work requirement May subcontract up to:
33% (Phase I)
50% (Phase II)
40% Small Business
30% Research Institution Partner
Program overall budget FY19 - $3.28 billion FY19 - $453 million
Participating agencies 11 agencies (extramural R&D budget > $100M) 5 agencies (extramural R&D budget > $1B)
IP Allocation Agreement required No Yes

Partnering and budget allocations

An SBIR award gives flexibility in partnering with subcontractors and allows up to 33% of the funding to be used for partners.

An STTR award requires that 40% of the funding goes to a research institution, 30% goes to the small business applicant and 30% is discretionary.

IP Allocation Agreement

Before receiving an STTR award, a small business must negotiate a written agreement between the small business and the partnering research institution, allocating intellectual property rights and, if relevant, rights to carry out follow-on research, development or commercialization.

When partnering with the University of Nevada, Reno, please contact Enterprise & Innovation to receive guidance on the IP allocation agreement.

Working with the University of Nevada, Reno

You may decide to partner with the University with either SBIR or STTR awards, but the STTR requires the partnership. There are many benefits to partnering with a university, such as:

  • Access to pre-existing, top-tier research and intellectual property
  • Leveraging existing research infrastructure such as equipment, chemical and biological waste management, safety policies and procedures, and expertise
  • Cultivating a long-term relationship around joint research and development
  • Access to a large employment talent pool
  • Utilizing support and compliance structures for grant and intellectual property management

Contact points at the University of Nevada, Reno

Agencies participation type: SBIR/STTR and contracting/granting
Agency Participation in SBIR or STTR? Contracting agency or granting agency?
Department of Agriculture (USDA) SBIR Granting agency
Department of Commerce (DOC)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
SBIR Granting agency
Department of Education (ED) SBIR Contracting agency
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) SBIR Contracting agency
Department of Transportation (DOT) SBIR Contracting agency
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) SBIR Contracting agency
Department of Defense (DOD) STTR Contracting agency
Department of Energy (DOE) STTR Granting agency
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Administration for Community Living (ACL)
STTR Granting and contracting agency (mostly grants)
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) STTR Contracting agency
National Science Foundation (NSF) STTR Granting agency

Differences between contracting agencies and granting agencies

Contracts are typically an opportunity where an agency puts forth a problem that needs to be solved, like “we need better batteries,” whereas grants are typically more open-ended, such as “we need a better energy solution – tell us your approach.”

Contracting agencies

  • Agency establishes plans, protocols, requirements
  • Highly focused topics
  • Procurement mechanism
  • More fiscal requirements
  • Invoiced on progress
  • Binding agreement between a buyer and seller for goods/services

Granting agencies

  • Principal Investigator initiated approach
  • Less-specific topics
  • Assistance mechanism
  • More flexibility
  • Allows upfront payment
  • Funds support a public purpose, best efforts in research