Program Overview

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program was established by Congress in 1982 to fund research and development (R&D) by small businesses of 500 or fewer employees. Eleven federal agencies participate in the program, including the Department of Defense.

The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program was established in 1992 to fund cooperative R&D projects with small businesses and non-profit U.S. research institutions, such as universities. Five federal agencies participate, including the Department of Defense. Both programs focus on projects and services with the potential to develop into a product for military or commercial sectors.


Eligibility Requirements


  • Applicant is for-profit business based in the United States
  • 500 or fewer employees
  • Principal investigator's primary employment (more than 50 percent) must be with small business
  • Additional requirements apply


  • Applicant is for-profit business based in the United States
  • Partner with U.S. research institution
  • Formal cooperative research and development effort
  • At least 40% of work performed by small business while 30% of work performed by research institution
  • Additional requirements apply


SAM Registration

Before a contract can be awarded, you must be registered in the System for Award Management, or SAM. SAM replaced the Central Contractor Registration (CCR), the Online Representations and Certifications Application, and the Excluded Parties List System. SAM allows firms interested in conducting business with the federal government to provide basic information on their business capabilities and financial information. To register, visit https://www.sam.gov/ If you had an active record in CCR then you have an active record in SAM. You will receive email notifications 60, 30, and 15 days prior to the expiration of the record. You can search for registered entities in SAM by typing the business name or DUNS number into the search box.



Proposal Submissions

A SBIR or STTR Phase I or Phase II proposal for any DoD component must be submitted through the online DoD Submission website at: https://www.dodsbirsttr.mil/submissions

Air Force experts evaluate the proposals on the following criteria, which are listed in order of importance:

  • Soundness, technical merit and innovation of the proposed approach and its incremental progress toward topic or subtopic solution; Qualifications of the principal/key investigators, supporting staff, and consultants.
  • Qualifications include not only the ability to perform the research and development, but also the ability to commercialize the results; and
  • The potential for commercialization (Government or private sector) application and the benefits expected to accrue from this commercialization.

Note: Technical reviewers will base their conclusions only on information contained in the proposal. It cannot be assumed that reviewers are acquainted with the firm or key individuals or any referenced experiments. Relevant supporting data such as journal articles, literature, including Government publications, etc., should be contained or referenced in the proposal and will count toward the page limit.


Proposal Selection and Award

If your firm’s proposal has been selected for a Phase I award, the principal investigator and corporate official indicated on the proposal cover sheet will be notified by email.

You will receive an email for each selected proposal. Please read each email carefully, paying close attention to the proposal and topic numbers. The email will emphasize that no work is to be performed at this time and that a Government Contract Negotiator or Contracting Officer will be contacting you.


Model Phase I Purchase Order (P.O.)

This Model Purchase Order (P.O.) contains examples of SBIR contractual deliverable requirements (e.g. submission of interim and final scientific and technical reports) as well as Federal Acquisition Regulation contract clauses.


Environment, Safety and Occupational Health (ESOH) Questionnaire

Click here to download the SBIR/STTR Environment, Safety and Occupational Health (ESOH) Questionnaire. 


Proposal Receipt and Status

The Air Force is not responsible for ensuring email receipt by small businesses that have changed their email addresses since submission of the Phase I proposal without proper notification. If your email addresses have changed since proposal submittal please send an email to usaf.team@afsbirsttr.us with the change.


Non-Selection and Debriefing Request

The SBIR/STTR program is extremely competitive with the number of awards being based on technical quality and the present-day needs and mission requirements of the Air Force. Although your firm may have submitted a good proposal, an award may not have been offered. If your firm’s proposal was not selected, the principal investigator and corporate official indicated on the proposal cover sheet will be notified via email. You may request a debriefing from the contracting officer listed in your notification. Remember, the Air Force may participate in three SBIR and three STTR Broad Agency Announcements (BAA) per year as part of the DoD BAA process so there may be other opportunities for your firm. Please visit the BAA page to learn more about potential opportunities.