Small Business Innovation Research Program


The intent of NIDILRR’s Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program is to help support the development of new ideas and projects that are useful to persons with disabilities by inviting the participation of small business firms with strong research capabilities in science, engineering, or educational technology.

Small businesses must meet certain criteria to participate: the company must be American-owned and independently operated, for-profit, employ no more than 500 employees, and the principal researcher must be employed by the business.

During Phase I, NIDILRR funds firms to conduct feasibility studies to evaluate the scientific and technical merit of an idea. During Phase II, NIDILRR-funded firms expand on the results of Phase I to pursue further development.

Additional Information About SBIR

In 1982, the U.S. Congress established the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program to stimulate technological innovation, use small business to meet federal research and development needs, and increase private sector commercialization.

SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from the commercialization of their SBIR-generated products. By including qualified small businesses in the nation’s R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the U.S. gains entrepreneurial spirit as it meets its specific research and development needs.

The SBIR program is structured in three phases, the first two of which are supported by SBIR funds:

Phase I: The objective of Phase I is to determine the scientific or technical merit and feasibility of proposed research or research & development (R/R&D) efforts that appear to have commercial potential. This feasibility is a prerequisite for further support in Phase II. Phase I awards are for periods up to six months in amounts as indicated in the Funding Opportunity Announcements.

Phase II: The objective of Phase II is to continue the research or R&D effort initiated in Phase I with approaches that exhibit potential for commercial application. Phase II awards are for periods up to two years in amounts as indicated in the Funding Opportunity Announcements.

Phase III: An objective of the SBIR program is to increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from Federal R/R&D. During Phase III, the small business concern is to pursue commercialization with non-SBIR funds. The Department of Health and Human Services does not provide funding during the Phase III period.

There are 11 federal agencies that participate in SBIR, including: the Departments of Education, Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Science Foundation. The program is administered similarly by each of these departments.

How to Apply

  • Eligible small businesses are American-owned and independently operated, must be for-profit, employ no more than 500 employees, and the principal researcher must be employed by the business.

  • View a list of NIDILRR funding opportunities and application kits. Program announcements contained in the application kit provide comprehensive information including:

    • Background on the SBIR program

    • Invitational Priority areas (which are not absolute or restrictive)

    • Information sources and Departmental contacts

    • Evaluation criteria

    • Related program information (rights in technical data, copyrights, patents, and equipment)

  • NIDILRR’s SBIR program holds one annual Phase I and one annual Phase II competition. The Phase I program announcement is normally released by early spring, and closes two months later. All awards are made before September 30 of any given year.

  • View the Guide to Applying for some helpful application tips.


  • The SBIR program accounts for approximately 4% of the NIDILRR grant funding in FY 2019.

  • Each year, NIDILRR’s SBIR program funds up to ten Phase I feasibility (or proof-of-concept) projects for a duration of approximately six months (for up to $100,000 each).

  • After completion of the Phase I stage, most of these businesses can compete for Phase II awards. Phase II awards can last up to 24 months for a total of up to $575,000.

Select Recent Accomplishments

Current Grants

  • WhenWear Advisor: A Cloud-Based Tool to Help Supervisors Increase Employment Options for Workers with Intellectual Disabilities. 90BISB0009 
  • The Bimodal Ankle for Mobility and Stability of Prosthesis Users. 90BISB0010
  • Improving Rehabilitation and Reducing Re-Occurrence of Diabetic Foot Ulcers by Shifting Plantar Pressure with Exo-Tendon and Exo-Skeletal Footwear Systems. 90BISB0011
  • Indoor Navigation Aid for Individuals with Visual Impairments in Unfamiliar Spaces. 90BISB0005
  • Improving Hearing Aid Satisfaction Through Remote Feedback and Settings Adjustments. 90BISB0006
  • SoundFit Ultrasonic Optimization for Lower Body Prosthetics. 90BISB0007
  • Touch-Responsive Models for Universal Access to Smithsonian Museums Exhibits. 90BISB0008
  • Development of a Wearable Robot for Motor Rehabilitation in Acute Stroke. 90BISB0001
  • Physiologically Compatible Hemodialysis Through Advanced Dialysate Regeneration. 90BISB0002

Completed Grants

  • Wheelchair Optimal Route Planning for Public Urban and Indoor Spaces. 90BI0002 
  • HomePortal – A Universal Home Environment for Individuals who are Blind or Have Visual Impairments. 90BI0022
  • Semantics-Aware Web Screen-Reading Assistant. 90BI0023
  • Therapeutic Intermittent Compression Socket. 90BI0020


Contact Brian Bard at NIDILRR if you have questions about the SBIR Program funding mechanism.


Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

If at any time you become aware of fraud, waste, abuse, or any kind of wrongdoing under any SBIR award, please contact the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG Hotline accepts tips from all sources about potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in HHS programs. The reporting individual should indicate that the fraud, waste, and/or abuse concerns an SBIR grant or contract, if relevant. For more information, visit the OIG website at


Please visit the following NIH page on reporting fraud for examples of fraud, waste and abuse. Prosecuted cases appear halfway down the page:


Please contact Brian Bard by email or phone (202-795-7298) if you have any questions regarding fraud, waste, or abuse in NIDILRR’s SBIR program.


Last modified on 08/26/2019

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