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What is the Difference Between SBIR and STTR?

Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR grants enable small businesses to explore their technological potential. SBIR grants serve to incentivize commercialization of aging and Alzheimer's disease-related products, services, and innovations. SBIR grants primarily fund the research and product development stage of bringing a product or service to market.

In contrast, the STTR program is focused primarily on the expansion of public/private-sector partnerships to include collaboration with non-profit research institutions, particularly research universities. A unique feature of STTR is a provision that allows applicant SBCs to appoint principal investigators who are primarily employed by the non-profit research partner. STTR projects require that the research-and-development effort be divided between the small business and the research partner.

For details about eligibility for SBIR/STTR grants, subcontracting requirements, and other terms of participation and award, see the Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) listed below.

Multiple Phases of the SBIR-STTR Programs

In Phase I of the SBIR (R43 activity code) and STTR (R41 activity code) programs, research and development focus primarily on the development and feasibility-testing of prototypes (e.g., compounds, products, services).

In Phase II of the SBIR (R44 activity code) and STTR (R42 activity code) programs, small businesses perform additional research and development of prototypes. Phase II projects can also accommodate simple between-group comparisons to demonstrate hypothesized features-benefits of the prototype.

Another option is the NIH SBIR-STTR Fast-Track program. In the SBIR-STTR Fast-Track program, the applicant SBC submits Phase I (either STTR R41 or SBIR R43) and Phase II (either STTR R42 or SBIR R44) applications in the initial application. The NIH Fast-Track program provides for simultaneous peer and secondary review of both the Phase I and Phase II application.

The simultaneous review and consideration for funding affords Fast-Track applicants the opportunity to plan and subsequently stage the proposed research and development across both Phase I and Phase II and, if a meritorious Fast-Track application is approved for funding, allows the SBC to obtain funding for the Phase II research and development more quickly than it would were it to apply separately (and consecutively) for a Phase I and then a Phase II award.

Finally, Phase II SBIR-STTR awardees can compete for additional SBIR-STTR funding via the NIH SBIR-STTR Phase IIB program. In the Phase IIB program, SBCs propose and conduct additional research and development to facilitate and accelerate the capital-intensive steps that are required to transition SBIR-STTR Phase II projects to the commercialization stage. Phase IIB projects should feature partnerships between SBIR-STTR Phase II awardees and third-party investors and/or strategic partners.