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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program


Congress has 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 research and development (R&D) objectives.

In November 1982, the Secretary of Transportation chose the Volpe Center to direct the Department's SBIR Program due to its extensive background in innovative programs such as technology transfer, cooperative R&D agreements, outreach projects involving a cross-section of the transportation community, and technical assistance to state and local governments, as well as private organizations. The SBIR Program Office, located at the Volpe Center, directs all activities required under the SBIR law and executes the policy established by the Small Business Administration.


The Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-219), reauthorizing legislation (P.L. 99-443) and P.L. 102-564 (Small Business Research and Development Act), encourages the effective use of small business in meeting federal research and development objectives. To comply with the statutory obligations of the Act, DOT has established a SBIR Program which conforms to guidelines and regulations provided by the Small Business Administration. Twice annually, small businesses are solicited to submit innovative research proposals that address high priority requirements of the Department and have potential for commercialization.

The Three-Phase Process of the DOT SBIR Program

Phase I: The conduct of feasibility-related experimental or theoretical research or Research and Development (R&D) efforts on specified research topics. The dollar value of selected offers will not exceed $200,000 and is based on the topic's funding level stated in the Solicitation. The period of performance may be up to six months. The primary basis for award will be the scientific and technical merit of the proposal and its relevance to DOT requirements. (Only Phase I awardees are eligible to participate in Phase II)

Phase II: This phase is the principal research or R&D effort having a period of performance of approximately two years with a dollar value of up to $1,500,000. DOT will accept Phase II proposals under the SBIR Program only from firms which have previously received a DOT Phase I award. Awards would be based upon the results achieved in Phase I, the technical merit of the Phase II proposals, potential for commercialization and commitment for follow-on funding from non-federal sources for Phase III.

Phase III: This phase is to be conducted by the small businesses with non-federal funds to pursue commercial applications of the research or R&D funded in Phases I and II by the Department. Phase III may also involve follow-on non-SBIR funded contracts with components of DOT for products or processes for use by the Government.

Eligibility Requirements

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 site limited to under 500 employees

To learn about DOT’s upcoming solicitations or to sign-up to receive updates, please visit the DOT SBIR Program website. Any questions should be directed to:

DOT/SBIR Program Office, RVT-91
U.S. Department of Transportation
Research & Special Programs Administration
Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Website)
55 Broadway, Kendall Square
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142-1093
Attn.: Rachael Sack, DOT SBIR Program Director
Telephone: (617) 494-6352
FAX: (617) 494-2370

For other DOT small business opportunities see Small Business Specialist list.

Announcement of 2019 Growth Accelerator Fund Competition: This is a Small Business Administration (SBA) only program.
For more information, please follow this link:
Please keep in mind this is an SBA only program. All subsequent questions should be forwarded to them

SBIR Upcoming Events: