Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program


  • Awards government money to small businesses (less than 500 employees) to develop innovative solutions
    • The Air Force is given approx. $600M every year that must be spent on small businesses
  • Anyone at any level can use the program to partner with small businesses
  • Can generate prototypes for base-level problems
  • Can solve real Airmen problems quickly by leveraging other people’s money
    • Phase 1 and 2: NO Squadron money is needed or committed
  • SBIR is a phased program that allows innovators to identify small businesses to work with, develop prototypes for innovative solutions, and ultimately streamline procurement of the solution product.
    • Eligibility: small businesses from any industry may apply.
      • Applicants must demonstrate non-defense commercial traction.
    • Phase 1: Customer Discovery - the company is given $50K/3 months to determine if their solution addresses an Air Force need and to plan out a phase 2 trial with the Air Force customer.
    • Phase 2: Proof of Concept - the company is awarded up to $1.5M/27 months to make necessary adaptations and developments on their existing non-defense solution to be useful to the Air Force customer.
      • Companies may receive additional funding during the course of phase 2 to perform additional work and scale their solutions.
    • Phase 3: Streamlined procurement – The solution developed in phase 1 and/or 2 may now be purchased sole source by any federal agency. All funds must come from the purchasing organization (i.e. squadron, wing, program office, etc.).
      • Can use any money type and any contract type – talk to your local contracting or finance office for more information about how to purchase out of phase 3.
  • There are currently 3 SBIR application cycles per year.


  • Airmen don’t always have enough time, expertise, or discretionary money to accomplish and new innovative things.
  • SBIR can provide quicker solutions and higher quality products to Air Force problems.

How do I get involved?

  • I have a problem and I am looking for a solution
    • Search through database of existing companies (Link)
      • If you find a company in phase 1 w/ whom you would like to do R&D, fill out an MOU to get them into phase 2
      • Develop MOU signatory process for Phase 1 and 2s (Spark Cell reps and commanders/commander designees)
      • If you find something COTS, go directly to phase 3
    • Fill out an operator need on ideascale (SBIR20x). It’s EASY! (Link)
      • Companies will compete to solve your problem
  • A company came to me with a solution already in SBIR, what do I do?
    • Connect them to base Spark Cell (link)
    • Connect them to SBO (link)