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About the Programs

A number of federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Defense (DOD), receive congressionally mandated funding to support research and development activities under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Among the goals of SBIR and STTR programs are the stimulation of technological innovation and private sector commercialization of technology developed through federally supported research and development. Only small businesses are eligible to apply for these grants as the prime recipient. Please note that participating agencies have their own specifications when applying for this type of funding, so visit their individual sites for more information.

SBIR and STTR programs have three phases:

  • Phase I – Feasibility and Proof of Concept
  • Phase II – Research/Research Development
  • Phase III – Commercialization

SBIR and STTR programs have similar objectives, but differ in ways related to the Program Director (PD)/Principal Investigator (PI) and non-profit research partner. The key differences are listed below:

  • The Small Business Concern (SBC) and its partnering institution are required to establish an intellectual property agreement detailing the allocation of intellectual property rights and rights to carry out follow-on research, development or commercialization activities.
  • STTR requires that the SBC perform at least 40% of the R&D and the single partnering research institution to perform at least 30% of the R&D.
  • Unlike the SBIR program, STTR does not require the Principal Investigator to be primarily employed by the SBC.

Working With SBIR/STTRs at UNC

UNC faculty and other members of the campus research community may be interested in participating in SBIR or STTR funded research. These activities can facilitate the transfer of technology to improve the well-being and productivity of society as well as provide valuable experience and knowledge for the University and business. We encourage any UNC employee interested in applying for these programs to contact their Sponsored Projects Specialist within the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR). The UNC Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) also provides useful information on their FAQs website for these types of projects.

In addition, please use the SBIR/STTR Administrative Guidance and templates below when working on an SBIR or STTR project.

Facilities & Administrative Costs Waiver for Phase I

As part of the University’s ongoing support for early-stage start-up companies seeking to commercialize research technologies, the University has committed to waiving the F&A cost requirements for Phase I SBIR/STTR grants. Please be aware that certain federal agencies can make the decision to override this waiver and require the University to include the F&A costs.

Our decision to waive F&A costs for these projects is intended to speed processing and provide critical support to companies engaged in commercialization at the very earliest stages. OSR will be reviewing the scope of work and budget to ensure the proposal meets the Phase I criteria prior to approving a waiver of the F&A.

SBIR/STTR Letter of Intent

The University has established a standard SBIR/STTR Letter of Intent (LOI) that should be used when submitting a proposal for an SBIR or STTR project. This letter has been modified from our standard LOI template to address the unique nature of this type of research funding. **NOTE: The LOI form does not open in a web browser. Clicking the link will automatically save the form to your computer’s Download folder. Open the form from within your Download folder using Adobe.**

SBIR/STTR Subagreement Template

The University has created a standard SBIR/STTR Subagreement Template that can be used by Small Businesses at the time of award. The template agreement has been vetted and approved by OSR and, if the Small Business can accept this template agreement with no revisions, then the award negotiation and set-up process time can be greatly reduced. This template also considers the unique nature of these types of research projects. Please work with your SPS at the time of award.

SBIR/STTR Conflict of Interest (COI)

It is recognized that conflicts of interest will arise from the research enterprise, from technology transfer activities, and from the many facets of our investigators’ professional activities. In order to preserve transparency, protect research subjects, ensure the integrity of the educational experience, and maintain the credibility of investigators, the COI office has provided the following documents below to ensure all conflicts can be appropriately managed.

Department of Defense (DOD) Funded SBIR/STTR Programs

DOD SBIR/STTR programs may contain additional criteria for review. To avoid complications at award negotiation the following should be included in your proposal submission:

  • Include a specific request for the DOD Contracting Office to review the Statement of Work to be performed by the University separately and determine in writing that the work is Fundamental Research as provided in DFARS 252.204-7000(a)(3).
  • Include a definitive statement to the Prime Contractor that “The research described in UNC Chapel Hill’s proposal is Fundamental Research as described in National Security Decision Directive 189 (9/21/85) and the USD (AT&L) memoranda on Fundamental Research, dated 5/24/2010, and on Contracted Fundamental Research, dated 6/26/2008.
  • Describe and emphasize the “dual use” purpose(s) of the research. Most of the work undertaken by the University that is funded by DOD has applications for both the military and civilian markets. Clearly state in your proposal that the results of the research are intended for both military and civilian applications and provide examples of civilian end uses.