SBIR and STTR Guide for Small Business

What are SBIR and STTR?

Three Phase Awards Process and Federal Funding

Three Phases

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) are programs designed to fund and assist early-stage research and development (R&D) performed by small companies. Federal agencies with extramural research and development budgets set aside funds for prime contract awards to small businesses with the goal of stimulating technological innovation and developing products with commercial value. In fact, each year, eleven government agencies distribute over $2.2 billion to small businesses through SBIR and STTR programs.

The Small Business Office at MIT Lincoln Laboratory helps to facilitate engagement in SBIR and STTR programs by promoting relevant government requests for proposals (RFPs) that Laboratory personnel have identified as opportunities of interest. Small businesses are encouraged to view these opportunities and consider engaging in the partnering and proposal processes. Please note that we may partner with small businesses if the SBIR or STTR announcement aligns with the strategic goals of the Laboratory. Lincoln Laboratory is selective in this process and carefully reviews each opportunity before committing to potential partnerships.    

As an added incentive, Massachusetts and other states have complementary programs designed to assist in the funding and commercialization of technologies developed under SBIR and STTR programs as supplements to federal funds provided through contract awards. These programs, like MA START and MassRamp, can augment funding and offer additional resources and expertise to small businesses hoping to develop and commercialize pioneering technologies.

At the national level, the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program allocates three million dollars total to fund R&D-focused small businesses in an effort to support small businesses financially and aid in the commercialization process. The FAST program especially focuses on underrepresented and marginalized populations for their awards, including women, the socially and economically disadvantaged, and applicants from rural areas.


At a Glance


What’s the Difference?

SBIR versus STTR



Small business can work alone or with others

Small business must work with a research institution, like Lincoln Laboratory

The research institution must be a U.S. college or university, federally funded research and development center, or non-profit research institution

Small business has a larger R&D role

Partner may only perform up to 33% of the work in Phase I and up to 50% of the work in Phase II

Partner may only perform between 30 and 60% of the work in each Phase

Primary investigator (PI) must be an employee of the small business

Primary investigator (PI) may be an employee of the small business OR the research institution


Why Partner with Lincoln Laboratory?

We are a Department of Defense (DoD) federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) with the mission of transferring its technology to both government and industry. The Laboratory has operated for over 65 years at the highest level of DoD R&D and is a part of the premiere university in the world for technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The small business program here is designed to advance the Laboratory’s mission by giving small businesses with innovative ideas the chance to participate in Laboratory acquisitions and obtain awards. The Laboratory operates on a no fee basis with approximately fifty percent of its subcontract dollars issued to small businesses. By partnering with us, small businesses not only gain access to technological expertise and innovation but also become part of a powerful economic engine that enriches the local economy, New England, and the nation.

Eligibility for SBIR and STTR Programs

Getting Started

Small businesses self-certify as to their size to the government, and eligibility standards are subject to industry requirements.

Reference the Small Business Association size standards for more details on size requirements.

In order to engage in SBIR and STTR programs with us, you must be a bona fide small business, in accordance with the above SBA regulations, and also be registered in the System for Award Management.

To view SBIR and STTR opportunities, visit the SBIR/STTR Partnership Opportunities page.

Which Government Agencies Participate?

In SBIR and STTR programs, the small business is the prime contractor and engages in a direct contract with the government. Lincoln Laboratory is a partner or collaborator for the R&D work, entering into a negotiated agreement with the small business.

The following table shows which eleven government agencies participate in SBIR and STTR programs. Only five of these agencies participate in both SBIR and STTR programs, with the remaining six exclusive to SBIR programs only.


Additional Resources

Have Questions or Need More Information?

For more information about SBIRs and STTRs, visit the following:

Federal SBIR/STTR Website:

System for Award Management:

US Small Business Administration:

Massachusetts Procurement Technical Assistance Center:

DoD Office of Small Business Programs:

Small Business Office at MIT Lincoln Laboratory