SBIR funding is about the closest you’ll ever get to “free government money” for your business… but of course it is far from free!
For a number of decades the US federal government has operated a research set-aside for small businesses. The SBIR program applies to 11 government agencies, although five of those agencies account for 97% of the available funding.
The infographic above sketches a quick summary of the SBIR program. If you want to learn more there are lots of resources available. First stop is the SBIR “about” page.
You should also see if there is an organization in your state that provides free help to companies interested in SBIRs. For example, the Maine Technology Institute not only provides seminars, but also free technical assistance for SBIR applicants. Find resources in your state by going to the SBIR “state services” web page, and changing the search to your state.
SBIR Funding Data Sources
Most of the data in the infographic was taken from the SBIR.gov page for “annual reports.” The most recent five fiscal years’ data was averaged (FY 2011-15).
The agencies’ share of SBIR budgets was derived from the FY 2015 data, the most recent we could easily find. With all of the changes going on in Washington DC it will be important to look at the most recent information as it’s likely to change.
We didn’t include the six much smaller SBIR funding agencies in the infographic because collectively they are a very small percentage of the total. For fiscal year 2015 their share is as follows:
- US Department of Agriculture, .8% (eight-tenths of one percent)
- Homeland Security, .7%
- Department of Education, .3%
- Department of Transportation, .3%
- Department of Commerce, .3%
- Environmental Protection Agency, .2%
Before jumping to any political conclusions, just remember that these numbers are all derived from the overall federal budget. That massive budget specifies in great detail not only where money goes for operations, but how much is spent on research and development. Then, the SBIR specific legislation tells the agencies how much of their overall research and development budget must go to small businesses through the SBIR program.