NOAA SBIR Program Overview

NOAA SBIR:  A Three-Phase Approach
Following submission of proposals, agencies make SBIR awards based on small business qualification, degree of innovation, technical merit, and future market potential. Small businesses that receive awards then begin a three-phase program.
  • Phase I is the start up phase. Awards of up to $120,000 for approximately 6 months support exploration of the technical merit or feasibility of an idea or technology.
  • Phase II awards are up to $400,000, for a 24-month period of performance (plus an additional 12 months post-R&D for the development of a commercialization report) to expand Phase I results. During this time, the R&D work is performed and the developer evaluates commercialization potential. Only Phase I award winners are considered for Phase II.
  • Phase III is the period during which Phase II innovation moves from the laboratory into the marketplace. No SBIR funds support this phase. The small business must find funding in the private sector or other non-SBIR federal agency funding.

Participation Eligibility:

Small businesses must meet certain eligibility criteria to participate in the SBIR program.

  • American-owned and independently operated
  • For-profit
  • Principal researcher employed by business
  • Company size limited to 500 employees

Evaluation Criteria:

All Phase I and II proposals will be evaluated and judged on a competitive basis.  A proposal will not be deemed acceptable if it represents presently available technology.  Proposals will be initially screened to determine responsiveness.  Proposals passing this initial screening will be technically evaluated through by engineers or scientists (reviewers may be NOAA employees or outside of NOAA) to determine the most promising technical and scientific approaches.  Each proposal will be judged on its own merit.  NOAA is under no obligation to fund any proposal or any specific number or proposals in a given topic.  It also may elect to fund several or none of the proposed approaches to the same topic or subtopic.

Phase I Screening Criteria

Phase I proposals that do not satisfy all of the screening criteria shall be rejected without further review and will be eliminated from consideration for award. 

  • Proposals may not be resubmitted (with or without revision) under this solicitation.  The screening criteria are:
  • The proposing firm must qualify as a small business.
  • The Phase I proposal must meet all of the requirements.
  • The Phase I proposal must be limited to one subtopic and clearly address research for that subtopic.
  • Phase I proposal budgets must not exceed $120,000.
  • The project duration for the Phase I feasibility research must not exceed six months.
  • The proposing firm must carry out a minimum of two-thirds of expenditures under each Phase I project.
  • The proposal must contain information sufficient to be peer reviewed as research.
  • Screening Criteria for Phase II Proposals shall be provided at a later date for all Phase I awardees.

Phase I Evaluation and Selection Criteria

Phase I proposals that comply with the screening criteria will go through the following process:

Step 1: The proposals will be rated by internal NOAA and/or external scientists or engineers in accordance with the following criteria:

  • The technical approach and the anticipated agency and commercial benefits that may be derived from the research. (25 points)
  • The adequacy of the proposed effort and its relationship to the fulfillment of requirements of the research subtopic. (20 points)
  • The soundness and technical merit of the proposed approach and its incremental progress toward subtopic solution. (20 points)
  • Qualifications of the proposed principal/key investigators, supporting staff, and consultants. (15 points)

Consideration of a proposal’s commercial potential as evidenced by: 

  • the SBC’s record of commercializing SBIR or other research;
  • the existence of second phase funding commitments from private sector or non-SBIR funding sources;
  • the existence of third phase follow-on commitments for the subject of the research;
  • the presence of other indicators of the commercial potential of the idea.
  • (20 points)

After the technical review, the superior Phase I proposals will be priority ranked to ensure that the proposed research is consistent with the objectives of NOAA’s research.

Step 2:  A NOAA-wide selection panel will review the content of the technically superior proposals and score  them based on the following evaluation factors and develop a final ranking:

  • Proposal priority ranking resulting from Step 1.
  • The potential of the proposed research to meet NOAA program priorities
  • Economic impact (e.g., ability of the company to develop a commercially viable product, service or process); number and record of past performance for SBIR and STTR awards; consideration given to companies without previous SBIR awards; existence of outside, non-SBIR, funding or partnering commitments; and/or the presence of other relevant supporting material contained in the proposal that indicates the commercial potential of the idea (such as letters of support, journal articles, literature, Government publications).
  • SBIR program priorities (manufacturing-related research; energy efficiency or renewable energy; participation by minority and disadvantaged persons and HUBZones).

Final award decisions will be made by NOAA based upon ratings assigned by the selection panel and consideration of additional factors, including possible duplication of other research, the importance of the proposed research as it relates to NOAA needs, and the availability of funding. In the event of a “tie” between proposals, manufacturing-related projects as well as those regarding energy efficiency and renewable energy systems will received priority in the award selection process.  NOAA may elect to fund several or none of the proposals received on a given subtopic. Upon selection of a proposal for a Phase I award, NOAA reserves the right to negotiate the amount of the award.

Phase II Evaluation and Selection Criteria

During the feasibility study project performance period, Phase I awardees will be provided instructions for preparation and submission of Phase II proposals.  Phase II proposals that comply with the screening criteria as stated in those instructions will be rated by NOAA and external scientists and engineers in accordance with the step 1 and 2 evaluation criteria.

Upon selection of a proposal for Phase II award, NOAA reserves the right to negotiate the amount of the award.  NOAA is not obligated to fund any specific Phase II proposal.

Release of Proposal Review Information

After final award decisions have been announced, the technical evaluations of proposals that passed the screening criteria will be provided to the offeror with written notification of award/non-award.  The identity of the reviewers will not be disclosed.


NOAA SBIR Overview - 2020


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