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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program: New Strategic Direction Provides New Opportunities

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program: New Strategic Direction Provides New Opportunities

During the past year, the U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT's) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program has undergone a number of changes designed to provide greater opportunities for the small business community to address high priority national transportation goals. RITA has set a new strategic direction for the program, one that places a heightened emphasis on proposals that would provide cost-effective, multimodal solutions to the nation's most pressing transportation challenges. In addition, for the first time ever, the USDOT SBIR program will now accept requests for proposals twice a year, another strategy to provide greater opportunities to small businesses nationwide.

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  Carl Dwyer

Congress established the SBIR Program to stimulate technological innovation, utilize small business to meet federal research and development needs, encourage participation by minority and disadvantaged businesses in technological innovation, and increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal research and development. SBIR invites the small business community to submit innovative proposals in response to topics that address the research needs of USDOT. Since 1982, the Volpe Center has managed the program on behalf of the Office of the Secretary of Transportation's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

In fiscal year 2009, the first solicitation will take place in February and the second one will occur in September. Examples of SBIR topics from the past year include "Low Cost Bridge Structural Monitoring Technology/Turning Structural Monitoring Data into Decision-Making Information," "Development of Tools for In-field Pipeline Repairs," "In Motion Rail Temperature Measurement Unit," and "Motorcycle Detection, Classification, and Characterization."

A process is currently being developed to allow two or more DOT jointly fund a topic, making it easier for them to address pressing multimodal topics. A DOT multimodal working group has been established to better address issues regarding the development of multi-modal topics and the issuance of two annual solicitations.

The DOT SBIR program office continually seeks ways to streamline the solicitation process. Presently, all proposals can be submitted electronically to the Volpe Center website. For more information about the DOT SBIR program, please go to, or contact Joseph Henebury, SBIR Program Director, at 617-494-2712.