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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program

Find information about Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant programs including compliance, proposal review/submission and eligibility of small businesses collaborating with UC San Diego.

About SBIR and STTR Programs

The federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant programs encourage the engagement of small business concerns (SBC) in federal research and development.  UCSD is not eligible to directly receive SBIR/STTR funding, but because collaborations between SBCs and research institutions are encouraged by the SBIR program and required by the STTR program, SBCs regularly seek UCSD researchers to participate in their projects.  UCSD researchers may also want to start or grow their own SBC and consider SBIR/STTR funding important for the establishment and/or future development of their SBC.

An eligible small business must be the prime awardee for a SBIR or STTR. Applying for an SBIR or STTR subaward requires pre-proposal legwork and compliance reviews. The programs are both Congressionally-mandated research and development (R&D) funding programs intended to support small businesses focused on bringing innovative technology to the marketplace. 

  • Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR): The SBIR program is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization.
  • Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR): The STTR is another program that expands funding opportunities in the federal innovation research and development (R&D) arena by encouraging expansion of the public/private sector partnership to include the joint venture opportunities for small businesses and nonprofit research institutions. 

Each agency has its own specific rules for SBIR/STTR proposals, which may change year to year, and solicitations should be reviewed thoroughly.

Submitting Subaward Proposals for SBIR and STTR

  • ePD record is routed and reviewed by the designated Sponsored Projects Office prior to submission to the small business/industry collaborator
  • Try to give OCGA a heads up about a pending proposal. Send the federal solicitation, and if there's more than one focus area/topic area, specify the one to which we are applying.
  • Contact OCGA early if atypical or additional proposal components are required in case coordination with other offices is necessary (e.g., OIC, CIO, Export Control, Risk Management, etc.).
  • Please ask the industry collaborator to confirm what materials are required to be submitted, and if there are specific templates we should use, request that they send them to us.
  • Please confirm well in advance what the deadline is (it will most likely be a few days in advance of the agency deadline).
  • Please make sure to consider general federal agency sponsor proposal guidelines in the context of the SBIR/STTR proposal when constructing the budget (e.g., NIH salary limitations).

One unique feature of the STTR program is the requirement for the small business to formally collaborate with a research institution in Phase I and Phase II, meeting minimum stated percentage effort thresholds. Some SBIR solicitations will also have requirements for the minimum required funding that must go to the university collaborator. 

Other considerations

 

Collaborations and COI

Small Business Collaborations with UC San Diego

SBIR/STTR projects are often conducted in collaboration with companies started by UC San Diego employees or alumni, or arise from relationships that began while people were working together at UC San Diego. UC San Diego PIs may be considering or may already be serving some function for the small business, for example:

  • board of scientific advisors
  • Chief Scientific Officer or staff scientist
  • investor

 

Consulting with COI Office

It's critical to conduct a conflict of interest analysis as far in advance of the proposal deadline as possible to leave time for consultation with the COI office as needed. OCGA recommends getting a 700-U or other applicable agency disclosure forms completed by the PI right away.

Also consider asking additional questions of the PI and project participants to get a more complete picture of the institutional relationship. For example, ask the PI whether there are any pre-existing links between the company/company PI and UCSD/UCSD participants, other than discussions specifically related to this effort.

Review the budget to see who besides the PI should be asked about company interests.

Look into company interests in UC San Diego, not just UC San Diego’s interests in the small business.

COI Restrictions on the Solicitiation

Review agency-specific and current solicitation requirements:

  • Check the solicitation for agency-specific COI restrictions.
  • Be mindful of percentage effort limitations when assessing potential conflicts of interest and commitment for UCSD faculty and staff who may be the PI/PD. Please also look out for unusual agency conflict guidance

For example: NSF FAQ 19-047 states that a person who has a financial interest in the proposing small business cannot request funds on a subaward budget, unless an exception is recommended by the Program Director and approved by the Division Director for the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships; this includes company equity holders or employees.

Grant or Contract

Grants

When the U.S. Federal government transfers anything of value from the Federal government to a non-federal entity to carry out a public purpose authorized by U.S. law.

Contracts

When the U.S. Federal government acquires (i.e., purchases or procures) goods or services from a non-federal entity.

Read more on the Difference Between Grants and Contracts (grants.gov). 

Proposal Checklist

In addition to typical proposal preparation practices, these steps may be helpful for SBIR/STTRs:

  • Get company website and proof of address
  • Confirm anticipated type of award (grant or contract)
  • Get small business collaborator information
    • small business collaborator deadline
    • list of required materials to submit to small business collaborator (may be different from prime proposal requirements)
    • templates from the small business collaborator that are required for our submission
  • Determine what Compliance Components need to be addressed
    • Provide solicitation to C&G in advance of the deadline to check for unique requirements/COI issues
    • 700U or other applicable agency COI disclosure forms completed by PI
    • Check whether anyone at the small business also works at or has any other type of appointment at UCSD
  • Budget Review
    • Check whether the PI or anyone on the budget serves a function for the small business
    • Confirm that the budget meets specific solicitation percentage effort requirements
  • Determine if there is UC San Diego Background IP
  • Determine if an NDA is needed
  • Please be sure that UCSD resources are not used to perform work that the small business collaborator is supposed to perform, such as compiling and submitting the full proposal. 

Intellectual Property and Confidential Information

Industry collaborations, especially SBIR/STTR proposals, might involve a greater emphasis on proprietary information than a typical research collaboration, and a non-disclosure agreement to cover proposal preparation discussions may therefore be appropriate.

Often the industry collaborator will ask us to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to cover communications related to the proposal effort. NDAs must be negotiated and signed by OCGA Business Contracts. Submit an Unfunded Agreement Request Form

Depending on the terms and whether obligations are outside of what we usually see in such agreements, OCGA may ask for specific PI concurrence before signing the agreement. UCSD prefers two-way NDAs in case UCSD confidential information is to be shared. This is usually the case when patented (or in-process patentable) inventions are involved. Please ask the PI to work with UCSD OIC in advance to determine whether any UCSD background intellectual property will be involved in the proposal or if the industry collaborator licenses technology from the University. If so, that IP will be specifically called out in the NDA. PIs should be aware of their obligations under any confidentiality agreements, including steps they need to take to protect UCSD confidential information.

Fundamental research exception (FRE)

Non-Disclosure/Confidential Disclosure Agreements (NDA/CDA) are outside the fundamental research exception. All parties involved (institutions and individuals) must undergo restricted party screening in advance of OCGA signing the NDA/CDA, and any controlled items or materials may only be exchanged under a control plan developed in advance by Export Control.

Should a formal research relationship (i.e. award) arise from these discussions, confidentiality terms in a sponsored research agreement (i.e. subaward) would take the place of the NDA. STTR awards also require an IP Allocation Agreement be negotiated between the industry and university collaborator; some industry collaborators want a separate agreement, and others are willing to incorporate the IP terms into the research subaward agreement.

For more information, email ocgainfo@ucsd.edu