4. Competitively Phased Structure of the Program
The SBIR Program is a phased process, uniform throughout the
Federal Government, of soliciting proposals and awarding funding
agreements for R/R&D, production, services, or any combination, to meet
stated agency needs or missions. Agencies must issue SBIR awards
pursuant to competitive and merit-based selection procedures. Agencies
may not use investment of venture capital or investment from hedge
funds or private equity firms as a criterion for an SBIR award.
Although matching funds are not required for Phase I or Phase II
awards, agencies may require a small business to have matching funds
for certain special awards (e.g., to reduce the gap between a Phase II
and Phase III award). In order to stimulate and foster scientific and
technological innovation, including increasing commercialization of
Federal R/R&D, the program must follow a uniform competitive process of
the following three phases, unless an exception applies:
(a) Phase I.
Phase I involves a solicitation of contract proposals
or grant applications to conduct feasibility-related experimental or
theoretical R/R&D related to described agency requirements. These
requirements, as defined by agency topics contained in a solicitation,
may be general or narrow in scope, depending on the needs of the
agency. The object of this phase is to determine the scientific and
technical merit and feasibility of the proposed effort and the quality
of performance of the SBC with a relatively small agency investment
before consideration of further Federal support in Phase II.
(1) Several different proposed solutions to a given problem may be
(2) Proposals will be evaluated on a competitive basis. Agency
criteria used to evaluate SBIR proposals must give consideration to the
scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the proposal along
with its potential for commercialization. Considerations may also
include program balance with respect to market or technological risk or
critical agency requirements.
(3) Agency benchmarks for progress towards commercialization. Each agency must determine whether an applicant for a Phase I award that has won multiple prior SBIR awards meets the agency's benchmark requirements for progress towards commercialization before making a new Phase I award to that applicant. For the purpose of this requirement, applicants are assessed using their prior Phase I and Phase II SBIR and STTR awards across all SBIR agencies.
(i) Agencies must apply two benchmark rates addressing an applicant's progress towards commercialization—the Phase II Transition Rate Benchmark and the Commercialization Rate Benchmark.
(4) Agencies may require the submission of a Phase II proposal as a
deliverable item under Phase I.
(A) The Phase II Transition Rate Benchmark sets the minimum required number of Phase II awards the applicant must have received for a given number of Phase I awards received during the specified period. This Transition Rate Benchmark applies only to Phase I applicants that have received more than 20 Phase I awards over the time period used by the agency for the benchmark determination.
(B) The agency Commercialization Rate Benchmark sets the minimum Phase III commercialization results that a Phase I applicant must have realized from its prior Phase II awards in order to be eligible to receive a new Phase I award from that agency. This benchmark requirement applies only to Phase I applicants that have received more than 15 Phase II awards over the time period used by the agency for the benchmark determination.
(ii) Consequence. If an awardee fails to meet either of the benchmarks, that awardee is not eligible for an SBIR Phase I award (and any Phase II award issued pursuant to paragraph (b)(1)(ii) below) for a period of one year from the time of the determination.
(iii) Timing of the determination and consequence period. The SBIR awardee Phase II transition rates and commercialization rates are calculated using the data in SBA's TechNet database. For the purpose of these benchmark requirements, awardee firms are assessed once a year, on June 1st, using their prior SBIR and STTR awards across all agencies. SBA makes this tabulation of awardee transition rates and commercialization rates available to the agencies. Each SBIR agency uses this tabulation to determine which companies do not meet that agency's benchmark rates and are therefore ineligible to receive new Phase 1 awards from that agency during the one-year period beginning on June 1st and ending on May 31st. SBA notifies these ineligible firms of the determination and the one year restriction on Phase I awards. Agencies must notify SBA of any applications denied because of the failure to meet the benchmarks.
(iv) Phase II Transition Rate Benchmark. Each agency must establish an SBA-approved Phase II Transition Rate Benchmark and applicable time period. The benchmark rates and time periods are posted at www.sbir.gov. Agencies must seek approval for any subsequent changes from SBA.
(A) The agency Phase II Transition Rate Benchmark establishes the number of Phase II awards a small businessconcern must have received for a given number of Phase I awards received over the past 5, 10 or 15 fiscal years, excluding the most recently completed fiscal year. Each agency selects both the rate to be applied and the length of time that the agency will use to evaluate whether a small business concern has met the Transition Rate Benchmark. The period over which Phase I awards are counted excludes the most recently completed fiscal year. The time period over which Phase II awards are counted includes the most recently completed fiscal year and excludes the first year of the time period evaluated for Phase I awards.
(v) Commercialization Rate Benchmark. By October 1, 2013, each agency will establish an SBA-approved Commercialization Rate Benchmark that establishes the level of Phase III commercialization results an SBC must have received from work it performed under prior Phase II awards, over the prior 5, 10 or 15 fiscal years, excluding the most recently completed two fiscal years. Agencies may define this benchmark:
Example: On August 1, 2014, an SBC submits an application to an agency using a Transition Rate Benchmark of 0.25 and a 5-year time period. The June 1, 2014 TechNet Company Registry tabulation shows that the SBC received 24 Phase I awards during FY08-FY12. Since this SBC has received 20 or more Phase I awards during the 5-year period, the SBC is required to meet the Transition Rate Benchmark. The SBC received 8 Phase II awards in FY09-FY13 and therefore has a 5-year Phase II transition rate of 8/24 or 0.33 (# of Phase II awards in FY09-FY13/# of Phase I awards in FY08-FY12). Because the SBC meets or exceeds the agency Transition Rate Benchmark, it is considered for award through the usual proposal evaluation process.
(B) An SBC that has received more than 20 Phase I awards in the relevant time period can view its Phase II transition rate on the Company Registry page at SBIR.gov. Generally, the award data used to calculate an SBC's transition rate will be complete by the end of March each year. An SBC may view its SBIR/STTR award information on the Company Registry at any time. If an awardee believes its Phase II transition rate is calculated using incomplete award information, the awardee may dispute the rate using the link provided on the Company Registry, provide the additional award information, and request a reconsideration of its transition rate. Requests for reconsideration of a firm's transition rate received by SBA from April 1st through April 30th of each year will be considered for the June 1st transition rate assessment.
Example 2: On September 1, 2014, an SBC is interested in applying for a Phase I award, knows it has received a number of Phase I awards in recent years, but is unsure if it is meeting the required Phase II transition rate. The company official logs onto the Company Registry at SBIR.gov to check its status and sees a flag saying it did not meet the required benchmark transition rate of 0.25 on June 1, 2014 and is therefore ineligible for a Phase I award through May 31, 2015. The company checks its records and sees that it received 30 Phase I awards during FY08-FY12 and 6 Phase II awards during FY09-FY13. Its transition rate is therefore 6/30 or 0.20 which is under the required rate of 0.25. The SBC does not apply for a new Phase I award through May 31, 2015 because it knows its application would be rejected.
Example 3: On September 1, 2014, an SBC official interested in applying for a Phase I award logs onto the Company Registry at SBIR.gov and sees the flag saying it did not meet the required benchmark transition rate of 0.25 on June 1, 2014 and is not eligible for a Phase I award through May 31, 2015. However, when the company checks its own records, it sees that it received 8 Phase II awards during FY09-FY13, not the 6 awards showing on the Web site. Its transition rate is therefore 8/30 or 0.26 which is above the required rate of 0.25. The company official therefore goes to SBIR.gov, clicks on the “Dispute Transition Rate” button, and enters the information about the discrepancy. SBA uses the information provided by the company and, working with the relevant agencies, identifies that two Phase II awards from FY09 had been inadvertently omitted. SBA updates and corrects the database and informs the firm that it is indeed eligible to receive SBIR Phase I awards.
(C) Agencies must set the Phase II Transition Rate Benchmark as appropriate for their programs and industry sectors. When setting the Transition Rate Benchmark, agencies should consider that Phase I is designed and intended to explore high-risk, early-stage research ideas and, as a result, not all Phase I awards are expected to result in a Phase II award.
(A) in financial terms, such as by using the ratio of the dollar value of revenues and additional investment resulting from prior Phase II awards relative to the dollar value of the Phase II awards received over the time period;
(vi) Agencies must submit their Transition Rate Benchmark, Commercialization Rate Benchmark, and time periods to SBA for approval. SBA will publish the benchmarks and time periods, seek public comment, and maintain a table of the current requirements on www.sbir.gov. The benchmarks and time periods become effective when SBA posts the approved measures on www.sbir.gov. Agencies must submit any changes to the benchmarks or time periods to SBA for prior approval.
(B) in terms of the share of Phase II awards received over the time period that have resulted in the introduction of a product to market; or
(C) by other means such as using a commercialization scoring system that rates awardees on their past commercialization success.
(vii) SBA maintains a system that records all Phase I, Phase II and Government Phase III awards, and other commercialization information; and calculates the Phase II transition rates for all Phase I awardees and the commercialization rates for all Phase II awardees.
(viii) If an applicant fails to meet an agency's benchmark, its name will appear on the list of companies made available to the agencies on June 1 of each year. An agency may not make a Phase I award to an applicant that does not meet the agency's benchmark.
(ix) If an awardee believes its determination was made in error, it may provide SBA with the pertinent award information and request a reassessment. To do so, awardees may use the link on the Company Registry at www.sbir.gov.
(b) Phase II.
(1) The object of Phase II is to continue the R/R&D effort from the completed Phase I. Unless an exception set forth in paragraphs (i) or (ii) below applies, only SBIR Phase I awardees are eligible to participate in Phase II.
(i) A Federal agency may issue an SBIR Phase II award to an STTR Phase I awardee to further develop the work performed under the STTR Phase I award. The agency must base its decision upon the results of work performed under the Phase I award and the scientific and technical merit, and commercial potential of the Phase II proposal. The STTR Phase I awardee must meet the eligibility and program requirements of the SBIR Program in order to receive the SBIR Phase II award.
(2) Funding must be based upon the results of work performed under
a Phase I award and the scientific and technical merit, feasibility and
commercial potential of the Phase II proposal. Phase II awards may not
necessarily complete the total research and development that may be
required to satisfy commercial or Federal needs beyond the SBIR
Program. The Phase II funding agreement with the awardee may, at the
discretion of the awarding agency, establish the procedures applicable
to Phase III agreements. The Government is not obligated to fund any
specific Phase II proposal.
(ii) During fiscal years (FY) 2012 through 2017, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Education (DoEd) may issue a Phase II award to a small business concern that did not receive a Phase I award for that R/R&D. Prior to such an award, the heads of those agencies, or designees, must issue a written determination that the small business has demonstrated the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of the ideas that appear to have commercial potential. The determination must besubmitted to SBA prior to issuing the Phase II award.
(3) The SBIR Phase II award decision process requires, among other
things, consideration of a proposal's commercial potential. Commercial
potential includes the potential to transition the technology to
private sector applications, Government applications, or Government
contractor applications. Commercial potential in a Phase II proposal
may be evidenced by:
(i) The SBC's record of successfully commercializing SBIR or other
(4) Agencies may not use an invitation, pre-screening, or pre-
selection process for eligibility for Phase II. Agencies must note in
each solicitation that all Phase I awardees may apply for a Phase II
award and provide guidance on the procedure for doing so.
(ii) The existence of Phase II funding commitments from private
sector or other non-SBIR funding sources;
(iii) The existence of Phase III, follow-on commitments for the
subject of the research; and
(iv) Other indicators of commercial potential of the idea.
(5) A Phase II awardee may receive one additional, sequential Phase II award to continue the work of an initial Phase II award. The additional, sequential Phase II award has the same guideline amounts and limits as an initial Phase II award.
(6) Agencies may offer special SBIR awards, such as Phase IIB awards, that supplement or extend Phase II awards. For example, some agencies administer Phase IIB awards that differ from the base Phase II in that they require third party matching of the SBIR funds. Each such supplemental award must be linked to a base Phase II award (the initial Phase II, or the second sequential Phase II award). Any SBIR funds used for such special or supplementary awards are aggregated with the amount of the base Phase II to determine the size of that Phase II award. Therefore, while there is no limit on the number of such special/supplementary awards, there is a limit on the total amount of SBIR funds that can be administered through them—the amounts of these awards count towards the size of the initial Phase II or the sequential Phase II, each of which has a guideline amount of $1 million and a limit of $1.5 million. (Note that Phase IIB awards under the NIH SBIR program are administered as second, sequential Phase II awards, not supplemental awards. As such, they are base Phase II awards and subject to the Phase II guideline amounts and limits of $1 million and $1.5 million).
(7) A concern that has received a Phase I award from an agency may receive a subsequent Phase II award from another agency if each agency makes a written determination that the topics of the relevant awards are the same and both agencies report the awards to the SBA including a reference to the related Phase I award and initial Phase II award if applicable.
(8) Agencies may issue Phase II awards for testing and evaluation of products, services, or technologies for use in technical or weapons systems.
(c) Phase III.
SBIR Phase III refers to work that derives from,
extends, or completes an effort made under prior SBIR funding
agreements, but is funded by sources other than the SBIR Program. Phase
III work is typically oriented towards commercialization of SBIR
research or technology.
(1) Each of the following types of activity constitutes SBIR Phase
(i) Commercial application (including testing and evaluation of
products, services or technologies for use in technical or weapons
systems) of SBIR-funded R/R&D financed by non-Federal sources of
capital (Note: The guidance in this Policy Directive regarding SBIR
Phase III pertains to the non-SBIR federally-funded work described in
(ii) and (iii) below. It does not address private agreements an SBIR
firm may make in the commercialization of its technology, except for a
subcontract to a Federal contract that may be a Phase III.);
(2) A Phase III award is, by its nature, an SBIR award, has SBIR
status, and must be accorded SBIR data rights. If an SBIR awardee
receives a funding agreement (whether competed, sole sourced or a
subcontract) for work that derives from, extends, or completes
efforts made under prior SBIR funding agreements, then the funding
agreement for the new work must have all SBIR Phase III status and data
(ii) SBIR-derived products or services intended for use by the
Federal Government, funded by non-SBIR sources of Federal funding;
(iii) Continuation of R/R&D that has been competitively selected
using peer review or merit-based selection procedures, funded by non-
SBIR Federal funding sources.
(3) The competition for SBIR Phase I and Phase II awards satisfies
any competition requirement of the Armed Services Procurement Act, the
Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, and the Competition
in Contracting Act. Therefore, an agency that wishes to fund an SBIR
Phase III project is not required to conduct another competition in
order to satisfy those statutory provisions. As a result, in conducting
actions relative to a Phase III SBIR award, it is sufficient to state
for purposes of a Justification and Approval pursuant to FAR 6.302-5,
that the project is a SBIR Phase III award that is derived from,
extends, or completes efforts made under prior SBIR funding agreements
and is authorized under 10 U.S.C. 2304(b)(2) or 41 U.S.C. 3303(b).
(4) Phase III work may be for products, production, services, R/
R&D, or any such combination.
(5) There is no limit on the number, duration, type, or dollar
value of Phase III awards made to a business concern. There is no limit
on the time that may elapse between a Phase I or Phase II award and
Phase III award, or between a Phase III award and any subsequent Phase
III award. A Federal agency may enter into a Phase III SBIR agreement
at any time with a Phase II awardee. Similarly, a Federal agency may
enter into a Phase III SBIR agreement at any time with a Phase I
awardee. A subcontract to a Federally-funded prime contract may be a
Phase III award.
(6) The small business size limits for Phase I and Phase II awards
do not apply to Phase III awards.
(7) To the greatest extent practicable, agencies or their
Government-owned, contractor-operated facilities, Federally-funded
research and development centers, or Government prime contractors that
pursue R/R&D or production developed under the SBIR Program, shall
issue Phase III awards relating to technology, including sole source
awards, to the SBIR awardee that developed the technology. Agencies
shall document how they provided this preference to the SBIR awardee
that developed the technology. In fact, the Act requires SBA report all
instances in which an agency pursues research, development, or
production of a technology developed by an SBIR awardee, with a
business concern or entity other than the one that developed the SBIR
technology. (See section 4(c)(8) immediately below for agency
notification to SBA prior to award of such a funding agreement and
section 10(h)(4) regarding agency reporting of the issuance of such
award.) SBA will report such instances, including those discovered
independently by SBA, to Congress.
(8) Agencies, their Government-owned, contractor-operated
facilities, or Federally-funded research and development centers, that
intend to pursue R/R&D, production, services, or any combination
thereof of a technology developed under an SBIR award, with an entity
other than that SBIR awardee, must notify SBA in writing prior to such
an award. This notification must include, at a minimum:
(i) The reasons why the follow-on funding agreement with the SBIR
awardee is not practicable;
(ii) The identity of the entity with which the agency intends to
make an award to perform research, development, or production; and
(iii) A description of the type of funding award under which the
research, development, or production will be obtained. SBA may appeal
an agency decision to pursue Phase III work with a business concern
other than the SBIR awardee that developed the technology to the head
of the contracting activity. If SBA decides to appeal the decision, it
must file a notice of intent to appeal with the funding agreement
officer no later than 5 business days after receiving the agency's
notice of intent to make award. Upon receipt of SBA's notice of intent
to appeal, the funding agreement officer must suspend further action on
the acquisition until the head of the contracting activity issues a
written decision on the appeal. The funding agreement officer may
proceed with award if he or she determines in writing that the award
must be made to protect the public interest. The funding agreement
officer must include a statement of the facts justifying that
determination and provide a copy of its determination to SBA. Within 30
days of receiving SBA's appeal, the head of the contracting activity
must render a written decision setting forth the basis of his or her
determination. During this period, the agency should consult with SBA
and review any case-specific information SBA believes to be pertinent.