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2014 Small Business Grants and Start-up Business Grants: Getting to know the federal SBIR grant program

Searching for grants for small businesses, and, similarly, grants for start-up businesses, can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. First, there may seem to be a lot of information out there on finding 2014 small business grants. However, once you look at the source of this information it quickly becomes clear that the vast majority of it is suspect. In fact, there are many cases of downright scams involving grants for new and small businesses.

The truth is, there aren't very many grants for small business available. That said, there is an extensive federal grant program that is strictly devoted to awarding small business grants to companies involved in innovative research, or research and development -- the SBIR grant program.

Grants for small businesses: SBIR grants

The federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program exists to encourage U.S. small businesses (those with fewer than 500 employees) to engage in research/research and development (R/R&D) with the potential to lead to a commercial product. The SBIR program is competitive -- meaning any qualified company can submit an application (no special invitation needed). It provides a financial means for companies to develop new, innovative technologies, and to ultimately profit from commercialization.

More specifically, SBIR grants (and related STTR grants) are awarded for the purpose of: stimulating innovation, particularly new technology; fulfilling federal research and development needs; and increasing private-sector commercialization of new products and technologies developed using federal funds. Within that broad context, each of the federal agencies that participate in the SBIR program are interested in receiving proposals within their specialty area.

2014 SBIR grants

During the 2014 SBIR grant cycle, eleven federal agencies will continue their participation in the program. These agencies are:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce - National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • Department of Commerce - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services (includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Transportation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Science Foundation

Agencies announce specific topics in their 2014 SBIR grant solicitations. A good starting place to find an agency's solicitation is its website, or SBIR.gov.

So how much money are we talking about here? Well, grant awards vary, and depend on whether an applicant applies for a Phase 1 SBIR grant, Phase II, or Fast-track, as well as the target agency. Award amounts may be for around $100,000, or several million dollars.

Is your small business or start-up business eligible for an SBIR grant?

Eligibility for SBIR/STTR grants is fairly open. Small businesses must be based in the U.S., owned and controlled by U.S. citizen(s) or permanent resident alien(s), and have fewer than 500 employees. Additionally, if applying under the sister STTR program (in which the small business partners with a nonprofit or research institution), the small business must perform a minimum 30% of the research effort.

Other than that, it comes down to the technology being developed. Whether applying for a 2014 NIH SBIR/STTR grant, through the Department of Education, Department of Defense, or any other agency innovation is key.

Applying for an SBIR grant

If your small business or start-up is trying to develop a new medical device, defense technology, educational innovation, or likewise, and you're looking for grant funding, you'll do well to check out the SBIR program. Again, SBIR.gov is a good place to start.

A couple words of caution -- the application process is pretty involved. It's wise to leave at least two months to complete it. Also, competition is tough -- reviewers typically reject around 85% of applications. If you the lack experience, knowledge, or time to develop a winning SBIR application, one of our professional SBIR/STTR grant writers will be happy to talk with you.

If you need help, one of our experienced SBIR/STTR grant writers will be happy to talk with you.

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