Start Winning Small Business Innovation Research Funds in Iowa

July 23, 2018
Start Winning Small Business Innovation Research Funds in Iowa

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is a competitive program that encourages small businesses in the U.S. to engage in research and development (R&D) with the potential for commercialization. Every federal agency with an R&D budget greater than $1 million dollars must spend a portion of it on work conducted by businesses with fewer than 500 employees. The state of Iowa wants to help Iowa businesses win these federal grants and contracts. 

SBIR funding comes in two phases: Phase I and Phase II. Businesses awarded Phase I funding are eligible to apply for Phase II funding. Phase I awards $150,000-$225,000 for 6-12-month projects and Phase II awards up $1 million for businesses to bring a product to commercial scale.

Applying for SBIR funding can feel overwhelming, but Iowa has experts available to help guide applicants through the process. Contact Anne Price with the Iowa Innovation Corporation at to get started or review the following for more information about the program:

1. Almost limitless grant opportunities

SBIR funding opportunities are broken into “contracts” and “grants.” Contracts are for a specific need. For example, the U.S. Department of Defense might need a new armored personnel carrier capable of moving across sand.

Grants, on the other hand, are much more flexible and allow the applicant to identify the scope of work. For example, “medical devices” is a category for National Science Foundation grants. Any group performing medical device research is eligible to apply. The goal of SBIR grants is to advance promising research. If a company is executing something innovative, there is a good chance a corresponding SBIR grant opportunity exists.

The below video further explains the differences between SBIR grants and contracts.

2. Access to consultants with experience and knowledge in winning SBIR funds

Anne and her colleagues at the Iowa Innovation Corporation work with consultants who have guided companies successfully through the SBIR process. These consultants can assist in developing the story and make sure a project makes sense for SBIR funding. They can identify holes in an application and explain how to fix the issues.

Access to expert counsel is extremely valuable. A professional, well-done application protects a company’s reputation with the judges at the awarding agency. These same judges could potentially review future applications, so it’s important to present the best case in each application.

3. Knowledge of rural areas beneficial in receiving grants

Most agencies award SBIR grants only to innovative research. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) weighs how the product or research can contribute to rural community development, and small to mid-size farms. In practice, this means a company that adapts an existing technology for use in rural areas may be eligible for an SBIR grant. So, even if a proposed technology isn’t completely new, but applicants are able to apply it to work for the benefit of rural communities, a USDA grant may be a fit.

Companies conducting research or creating a new product are encouraged to talk to the Iowa Innovation Corporation about SBIR opportunities to determine if they qualify.