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Appendix 9: Small Business Innovation Research Program

Congress established the Small Business Innovation Research (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 R&D.   The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center administers the US DOT SBIR program on behalf of the US DOT modal agencies.  The modal agencies provide the topic areas for SBIR solicitations. 

Since 2010, the DOT has worked to improve Program efficiency, streamline processes whiles also establishing opportunities to enhance commercialization outputs and accelerate contract award times. 

The DOT SBIR Program publishes SBIR success stories quarterly on the Program website ( and SBA website.  These success stories describe the path from research to commercialization and highlight the partnerships that aided in moving the innovation from the lab to the marketplace.

The implementation of the recently passed SBIR Reauthorization7 will require additional program enhancements as well as performance metrics (Table 4) to further expedite commercialization outputs, obtain greater participation of minority groups and underrepresented areas, and introduce further efficiencies aimed at improving contract award processes.  These activities will be implemented to align with the requirements contained in the statute, the SBIR Program Policy Directive and the new Rule on Size and Eligibility.

SBIR 2.0  In June, 2010 the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) led an initiative called SBIR 2.0.  This initiative was aimed at making the SBIR Program more efficient and entrepreneur friendly.  DOT SBIR 2.0 initiatives are:

  • Streamlining and simplification, to reduce time from selection to award. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2011 (FY 2011), the SBA required all federal SBIR Programs to meet and report annually on contract and grant award times as part of their agency submission of  the SBIR Program annual report. 
  • Bridge financing: The Phase II B Bridge Financing Program provides select DOT Phase II awardees a one-time financial bridge award to accelerate the commercialization of the innovation to the marketplace. DOT Phase II awardees seeking Phase II B SBIR funding are encouraged to also seek private sector matching funds and/or in-kind investment. 

Technology Transfer.  This Technology Transfer Pilot Program is modeled after a highly successful NIST SBIR Technology Transfer Program with the intent of using the SBIR Program to complete intramural research that requires further research and development for the innovation to move successfully to the marketplace.


Table 4   Potential SBIR objectives and metrics (subject to change)






Increase outreach to minority-owned small businesses and underrepresented areas

DOT will submit a Plan to SBA that establishes activities to increase participation of these groups in the Program

Effective October 1, 2012.  


Streamline the SBIR award process

DOT will submit a Plan to SBA that establishes activities to further streamline process and accelerate contract awards to small businesses

Effective October 1, 2012


Increase follow-on work leading to deployment (Phase I to Phase II to Phase III)

DOT will be required to establish a Phase I to II transition rate effective Jan. 1, 2013 and a Phase II to III Commercialization Benchmark Rate, effective October 1, 2013.

Baselines will be established for implementation on January 1, 2013 and October 1, 2013 as defined in the statue, Policy Directive, and Size and Eligibility Rule


Track Commercialization Outputs

DOT will be required to collect and input data on various commercialization metrics as defined in statue and Policy Directive.  Data will include: patents, inventions and licenses, jobs created, private sector investment.

SBA must build the necessary infrastructure (databases) for this to be implemented.  Initial roll-out of some of the capability is scheduled for January 1, 2013 

7 PL 112-81, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, Division E, December 31, 2011.