Small Business Innovation Research Program: An Opportunity to Grow Your Business

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Small business owners are often on the lookout for opportunities to fund their businesses, whether it’s for equipment acquisitions or startup capital assistance. Normally, small businesses have not enough financial resources or expertise to fund or research potential business projects. They often seek help from the federal government, the great provider of many business growth opportunities such as research and development grants, small business grants for women, startup grants for small business owners, etc. And this is where the Small Business Innovative Research Program (SBIR) comes in.

SBIR is an extremely competitive program that pushes small business to boost their technological know-how and offers incentives to profit from commercialization. By incorporating eligible small businesses to take on high-tech innovation in the research and development sector, the country gains its entrepreneurial spirit back as it meets research and other development needs.

Opportunities for small businesses

SBIR focuses on the entrepreneurial market where innovators and changemakers thrive. However, the risk and cost of performing stern research and development efforts are typically  more than many of small businesses can afford.

Through reservation of a certain percentage of federal research and development funds for small business owners, SBIR safeguards them and allows for competition on the same playing field as large corporations.

SBIR provides financial assistance to fund startup and development stages and goads the commercialization of products, services or technology, which are regarded to fuel the country’s economy.

Since 1982, as part of the ratification of the Small Business Innovation Development Act, SBIR has helped many small businesses to compete for federal research and development grants. SBIR’s contributions compensate for the protection of the environment, increase of the nation’s defense, advancing of healthcare, and improvement of managing and manipulating data and information.

Qualifications

In order to qualify as a participant in the SBIR program, small businesses should meet certain criteria.

Small businesses should be/have:

  • Owned by a U.S. citizen and independently operated
  • For-profit
  • Company size that’s limited to 500 employees
  • Principal researcher

SBIR system

Every year, SBIR requires 11 federal agencies and departments to set aside a portion of their research and development funds to award small businesses. These agencies and departments that assign research and development topics and seek proposals include:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Transportation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Science Foundation

SBIR’s Three-Phase Program

Federal agencies grant SBIR awards to qualified small businesses following proposal selection. Those that are granted awards commence a three-phase program.

  • Phase I: The startup phase. Up to $100,000 in funds are awarded for 6 months to small businesses. It supports the exploration of technical merit or feasibility of a specific technology or idea.
  • Phase II: Up to $750,000 in funds are awarded for as many as 2 years. It helps to expand Phase I development outcomes. During this phase, research and development work is performed. Only Phase I award recipients are considered for the Phase II funds.
  • Phase III: This is where Phase II innovation moves from the research and development stage into the marketplace. No SBIR funds are granted during this phase. Small businesses, to obtain funding, must find resources in other places, such as the private sector or a non-SBIR federal agency.

What is SBA’s role in the SBIR program?

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) acts as the coordinating agency and information link of the SBIR program, directing all the participating agencies’ implementation of SBIR, evaluates progress and reports to Congress on its operations every year.

SBA also gathers information from the 11 agencies and issues it out in a Pre-Solicitation Announcement (PSA) quarterly.

Growing Your Homebased Business with SBA Financing

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The U.S. Small Business Administration(SBA) is committed to assisting small business owners get the finances and mentorship they need to grow their small businesses. This federal agency works with different lending partners and has developed financial programs that deal with specific needs of small businesses, offering counseling, business grants for women, funding for inventions, business development, HUB Zone, disaster loans, and microloans to name a few.

While SBA provides grants and loans to help out people who have been rejected at traditional lending companies, the agency also manage an array of training programs and educational materials geared for starting home businesses. These training programs are designed to assist business startups about the various business functions. The agency also provides assistance on law-related and advocacy matters.

To be eligible for a SBA grant or loan, a small business must pass the necessary requirements. These requirements may consist of references, computation of average income and business revenue, and the type of business.

If you are looking to start or grow your small homebased business, you can browse through SBA’s website for listings of business grants and loans you can apply for. Banks and other lending companies can also provide you with SBA loans. You can start your search online for more information. While SBA does not offer the loans by itself, the agency does guarantee loans directed at small businesses by private and public institutions, which support these loans to qualify loan applicants for approval. Just make sure you review your options to score the best grant or loan for your small business.

Before applying for financial assistance from the SBA, here are questions you need to ask yourself to determine the financing needs of your homebased business:

  • Capital: Do you require more or can you handle more effectively your current cash flow ?
  • Defining your need: Do you really need more money to expand? Or do you seek more to act as a cushion against risk?
  • Urgency: How urgent is your need for capital? Tip – Preparation for your business needs allow you to obtain the best terms instead of seeking money in desperation.
  • Risks: How huge are your risks? While all businesses have risks, you must anticipate the degree of risk which affect cost and other financing options that are available.
  • Development stage: In what state or stage of development is your business? During transitional stages, your business needs are most crucial.
  • Purpose: What will the capital be used for? Lenders will require you to specify your needs and goals to successfully attain loans or funding.
  • State of industry: In what present state your industry is in? Successful businesses that have other similar businesses in decline will obtain better funding terms. It depends on how stable or depressed your business is.
  • Condition: Is your business condition cyclical or seasonal? Loans provided to cyclical businesses (like construction) are aimed to financially back up a business in times of depression and instability. Seasonal needs for businesses are usually short term.
  • Management: How well-built is your management team? Having a good management team is an vital element that’s evaluated by lenders.
  • Business plan: How does your need for more money interlock with your business plan? Prioritize in writing a detailed business plan.  Financing sources will want to review your business plan for the growth of your business.

If you have questions, you can always get in touch with SBA. Go to the agency’s website for its contact information. You can also find a local SBA office near you that you can visit.