How do I figure out which SBIR sponsors to target?

There are 4000-5000 SBIR grants that are awarded every year with a corresponding large number of sponsors. How might you find the ones who may be interested in your area of expertise, and get started building a relationship with them?

The first thing you should do is look at your technical area of expertise, map it against the 11 agencies that participate in the SBIR program, and come up with a hypothesis of which agencies might be interested in what you have to offer. Many teams will find that they should talk to multiple agencies. For example:

  • If you are working on a novel technology that is applicable to traditional gas firing power plants: The relevant agencies might include the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Department of Defence (DoD).
  • If you are working on industrial scale water treatment plants: You might talk to the NSF or the DoE.
  • If you are working on an innovation that impacts public health at a municipal level: Talk to the Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation.
  • If you are working on a cybersecurity solution for bare metal: Talk to the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
  • If you are developing novel ways to measure a biomechanical phenomenon: Talk to the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST).

The next step is to learn how to navigate each agency. Within each agency there are multiple labs - you will need to build knowledge about how these agencies are organized, and which labs are working on areas that interest you. That will help you narrow down on the sponsors you need to talk to.

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