The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program is similar, but far smaller, than its companion Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program. While the amount per award is similar between the programs, the STTR program has far less funding available, with fewer federal agencies taking part. The STTR program fosters collaborations between small businesses and research institutions with the goal of transitioning technologies to the marketplace. Depending on your needs and your company situation, an STTR application may be a better option than SBIR. We’ll go over some of the key differences between these programs here.
The main differences between SBIR and STTR applications are:
SBIRs do not require the small business to partner with any other entity. STTRs require the small business to partner with a research institution. The research institution can be:
SBIRs limit the amount of work and budget that can be outsourced. STTRs are more flexible.
STTRs provide flexibility when it comes to where the PI on the grant is employed.
Besides the differences between programs (SBIR v STTR), the agencies that take part in the STTR program each manage their programs differently. The agencies that take part in the STTR program are:
Here are the key differences between the agencies regarding their STTR participation:
The DOD has specific topics for SBIR and for STTR. The topics in the DOD SBIR program will be different than those in the DOD STTR program.
Most NIH topics support both SBIR and STTR mechanisms, however, there are occasional exceptions depending on the solicitation. In the Funding Opportunity published by NIH for the particular grant solicitation, the Companion Funding Opportunity section will show whether both SBIR and STTR are available.
You can submit either an SBIR or STTR application to any topic at NSF. The decision between submitting an SBIR or STTR to NSF typically comes down to the needs of your team and the level of participation needed from the partnering research institution (if you have one).
Not all topics at the DOE allow STTR applications. The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) from the DOE will indicate which topics allow STTR applications.
Similar to the DOD, NASA has specific topics for SBIR and for STTR. The topics in the NASA SBIR program will be different than those in the NASA STTR program.
The decision to submit either an SBIR or STTR application will depend on your company’s needs. If you are pursuing DOD or NASA funding, then submitting an STTR application will depend upon whether an actual topic exists that supports the STTR mechanism. If you are applying to the DOE, then some topics will allow you to submit either an SBIR or STTR application. For NSF and for NIH (most of the time), you can submit either an SBIR or an STTR application. It’s your choice.
If you are submitting to an agency (NIH, NSF, DOE) that allows you to choose between an SBIR or STTR submission, then you will want to base the decision on your company’s needs. If your team has little research experience, then collaborating with a research institution can strengthen your team and an STTR may be an excellent choice. If you need to outsource a significant amount of work, then an STTR is the more appropriate submission. Finally, if your company has licensed or is licensing in a technology from a research institution, then an STTR proposal is a good way to help fund the transition of the technology to your company.