Q&A: Federal Funding for Research and Development

While the WEDC offers a variety of financial and operational assistance to technology-based startup companies, the organization also helps entrepreneurs tap federal funding designed to spur innovation. Two such federal resources are the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs.

What is the purpose of the SBIR/STTR Programs?

The U.S. government created the SBIR/STTR Programs to stimulate domestic high-tech innovation. Together, the programs foster an entrepreneurial spirit that is needed to fuel specific research and development needs.

SBIR/STTR funding is an excellent way to develop your business without giving up equity or assuming debt. These awards also confer credibility on your idea and your team by providing national recognition to your research and development efforts—recognition that can help attract follow-on financing and/or a licensing deal.

Where, specifically, does the funding for these programs come from?

Each year, federal agencies with extramural research and development budgets exceeding certain amounts are required to allocate a percentage of these budgets to the SBIR/STTR Programs. The result is more than $2 billion available annual from the following agencies:

Agencies with SBIR and STTR Programs FY 2012 Funding
Dept. of Defense $1.1 Billion
Dept. of Health and Human Services (NIH, CDC, FDA) $717.0 Million
Dept. of Energy $188.3 Million
National Science Foundation $150.6 Million
Agencies with SBIR Programs FY 2012 Funding
Dept. of Agriculture $19.3 Million
Dept. of Education $13.4 Million
Dept. of Homeland Security $12.6 Million
Dept. of Transportation $8.6 Million
Environmental Protection Agency $4.8 Million
Dept. of Commerce (NOAA, NIST) $4.7 Million

Who is eligible for this funding?

For-profit companies operating in the U.S. are eligible for SBIR/STTR funding if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • At least 51 percent owned and controlled by U.S. individuals.
  • In the case of 1-2 agencies, at least 51 percent owned by multiple domestic venture capital firms, hedge funds, or private equity firms.

Companies applying for SBIR/STTR funding cannot have more than 500 employees. In the case of SBIR, the project’s “principal investigator”—the person responsible for overseeing the research—must have primary employment (at least 51 percent) with the business seeking funding at the time of the award, and the company must complete at least 66 percent of the work associated with the project.

In a project receiving STTR funding, the principal investigator need not be primarily employed by the business at the time of the award, and project work is shared between the company receiving funding (at least 40 percent) and a recognized non-profit or federally-funded research institution.

What resources are available in Wisconsin to help companies identify and capitalize upon SBIR/STTR funding opportunities?

The Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) helps companies with their SBIR/STTR funding acquisition efforts, including evaluating concept and plan feasibility and assisting with the application for federal (and other) investments.

WEDC offers financial assistance to companies to cover a portion of the costs associated with preparing and submitting SBIR/STTR applications. These funds are available through CTC.

For more information about SBIR/STTR financial awards, contact CTC staff.

(April 2014)