DoD SBIR/STTR Tutorial
Text-only Version

Table of Contents

  1. Welcome

  2. SBIR Overview

  3. Getting Started

  4. Program Solicitation

  5. Solicitation Topics

  6. Topic Search Engine

  7. Technical Questions

  8. Submission Site Registration

  9. Step 1:Proposal Preparation

  10. Step 2: Cost Volume

  11. Step 3: Technical Volume

  12. Step 4: Company Commercialization Report

  13. Verification Proposal

  14. SBIR Updates


Welcome to the Department of Defense Small Business Innovation Research program or SBIR. This tour will introduce you to the SBIR program and take you step-by-step through the process of preparing and submitting a proposal.

SBIR provides funding to small, hi-tech businesses to research, design, develop and test prototype technologies related to specific Defense needs, which are issued as solicitation topics every few months on the Internet. This program stimulates technological innovation, integrates small business-developed inventions into defense systems and increases commercial application of DoD supported research and development efforts.

SBIR Overview

SBIR has three phases. In Phase I, a small business submits a proposal in response to a DoD Solicitation Topic.

Proposals are reviewed to determine the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of the proposed approach. Awardees can receive as much as $150,000 (dollars) over six to nine months to develop the idea.

Phase I projects that demonstrate the most potential are invited to submit a Phase II proposal to further develop the idea and produce a well-defined prototype. This is where the major R&D effort is conducted. Phase II awards can be up to $1,000,000 (dollars) over two years.

Phase I and II proposals are evaluated on three criteria:

In Phase III, companies are expected to leverage SBIR funding to obtain private or non-SBIR government funding to turn the prototype developed in Phase II into a commercial product or service for sale to military and private sector customers.

To participate in the SBIR program, a company must be a for-profit U.S. owned and operated small business with 500 or fewer employees. The designated project lead, called the Principal Investigator, must spend more than half of his or her time employed by the small business. While subcontractors and consultants can be used, at least two thirds of the total effort in Phase I and at least one half in Phase II must be performed by the proposing firm. All work must be performed in the United States.

The DoD also has a second, smaller R&D program, called Small Business Technology Transfer or STTR. It is also a three-phased program; however, STTR funds cooperative R&D conducted jointly by small businesses and research institutions, such as universities. Since the solicitation and proposal submission process is the same for both programs, you will see both acronyms on some of the websites we're going to visit. For this tour, we'll concentrate on the SBIR submission process. One last thing, the green links throughout the text-only version of the tutorial will show you the page we are discussing.

Getting Started

We're ready to start preparing our Phase I SBIR proposal, so let's go to the DoD SBIR Resource Center website located at You may want to jot down this site because the Resource Center has links to all the DoD SBIR resources you'll need for information on program background and history, solicitations, conferences, proposal submission, previous awards, help, and much more.

"I forgot to tell you. We have a new SBIR proposal icon that will be joining us on the tour to add special tips from time to time."

That's right. Let's start on the "Current Solicitation" page.

Program Solicitation

The DoD issues SBIR solicitations every few months, inviting small businesses to submit proposed solutions to defense related topics.

The Current Solicitation lists all solicitations that are pre-released or open and links to three important web pages: The Topics Search Engine where you can search the current open solicitation for topics that meet your criteria; the Technical Questions section which allows you to ask and receive answers to technical questions about a topic while the solicitation is open; and the Proposal Preparation and Submission website, where you will submit your SBIR proposal.

Let's start by returning to the top of the page and clicking on the solicitation that is currently open.

Each solicitation has three important dates: the pre-release period of the solicitation, the date proposals will start to be accepted, and the deadline for proposal submission. It is important to keep these in mind if you are submitting a proposal.

Scroll down a bit and you'll see "Download & Review Solicitation Instructions." Clicking on one of the formats -HTML, PDF or Word - brings up everything you need to know about the DoD-wide solicitation process including a program description, definitions, proposal preparation instructions and requirements, evaluation criteria and selection method, contract information and submission instructions.

Solicitation Topics

To the right of the "Download & Review Solicitation Instructions" step you'll find the "Download & Review Solicitation Topics" step. The links in this table list R&D topics open for proposal submission plus additional instructions and requirements specific to the issuing service or defense agency, commonly referred to as a DoD Component. Not every DoD Component will have topics in every solicitation, although each will offer topics at least once a year.

"There are literally hundreds of topics in each solicitation; hopefully one of them will be in your area of expertise."

The easiest way to identify topics in your area is to use the Topics Search Engine rather than reading every topic in each Component's section. Once you find a topic, remember to return to the Current Solicitation page to read the Component-specific instructions for that topic.

Topic Search Engine

There are two ways to do a basic search of topics: by topic number or keyword search. To search by topic number, select the topic number from the pull-down menu and click the Search button. For a keyword search, enter the word or phase you want to search on in the "Search by Keyword" box. You can set some basic limits using the pull-down menus and specify how you want results sorted.

To search for a phrase, type in the words without quotation marks. Then, click Search.

Topics that meet your criteria will be returned as a list. Our search found 35 topics that matched the keyword search criteria. Only the first 10 are displayed on the screen. Use the arrow navigation buttons under the grid to display the next set of 10 topics. Clicking on a topic number brings up the topic's details. Or you can click on the "printable reports" button at the top of the screen to display the details on all topics matching your criteria in a single file that you can view or print.

A good rule of thumb is to start with a broad search; then, narrow it with more specific information. Boolean operators may also be used to search topics.

Each time you use the search engine, you'll become more familiar with how to target just the topics you want.

"Find more tips by clicking the 'Search Tips' button! For more complex searches, use the 'Custom Search' feature."

When you find a topic you are interested in, write down the topic number; it will be useful as you go through other steps in the submission process.

Each topic lists the issuing Component and topic number, title, objective, defense need and what is expected to be accomplished in Phases I and II. Most topics also list references for additional information related to the topic.

Technical Questions

What if you have technical questions about a topic? Well, from the pre-release date up to the date proposals start to be accepted, you can talk directly to the topic author. The Technical Point of Contact (or TPOC)'s name, phone and e-mail address can be found with the topic underneath the topic description.

Once DoD starts accepting proposals, no further direct contact is allowed. However, questions can still be submitted in writing through the SBIR Interactive Topic Information System (SITIS). Both the questioner and respondent remain anonymous and questions and answers are posted electronically for general viewing. We suggest you check SITIS from time to time to see if there are any updates or questions and answers related to your proposal.

"The DoD SBIR Help Desk will answer your general questions about the solicitation, proposal preparation, electronic proposal submission and other program-related areas."

Reach the HELP desk between 8:00am to 5:00pm Eastern Standard time by phone at 866-SBIRHLP or by e-mail from the Help Desk line on the SBIR Resource Center home page.

Submission Site Registration

Once you've found a topic, what comes next? Your proposal must be submitted electronically through the DoD SBIR/STTR Submission website. Click on "Submission". Type in the first few letters of your firm's name and click "Find Firm."

Use the pull down menu to see if your firm is listed. If it is, it means your firm is already registered.

Select your firm's name from the menu and click "Continue" to proceed to the login page.

If your firm is not listed, you must register your firm now. The SBIR Submission site is a secure website and all transmissions to and from the site are encrypted for your protection and privacy. Only the government will be able to use the information you submit; however, you will still be able to view and edit your own information.

"To show you how it works, let's register a fictional firm - Acme Company. Start by clicking on 'Register Now.'"

Registering is easy. First, fill in some standard firm name, and address. Your firm's Federal Tax ID number will be your unique registration number. If your company does not yet have a Federal Tax ID, use your social security number. When you get a Tax ID number, update your firm's information on the website because no awards can be made until your company has a Federal Tax ID. Two other numbers - the DUNS and CAGE code - are required to receive an award but you can submit a proposal while you apply for these numbers. To find out how to get DUNS and CAGE code number, click on the links shown on this page.

Next, designate a Point of Contact (POC) at your firm. This person will be responsible for maintaining your data and password on this site. Additionally, if anyone tries to access the account without the correct password, they will be directed to the POC. Then, create a password. Your password is your assurance of data privacy so make sure it is something that is not easily guessed. It is required that your password be at least 10 characters long and contain both upper and lower case letters, contain at least one number and contain at least one special character (such as $, ?, !).

Scrolling down, there are some other questions you must the year the company was founded, the number and years of any previous Phase I and Phase II awards, number of employees, number of patents related to SBIR/STTR awards, etc.

When you have completed the registration form, click "Save." A confirmation page showing that your firm is registered in the SBIR database will appear.

Now that your firm is registered, every time you return to the DoD Submission site, you need only to login.

If you forget your password, click on the link shown on the screen. A screen will return giving you the name of your firm's POC and information on how to contact him or her for the password. The firm's password will also be e-mailed to your firm's POC.

Note that your password can be changed from this login screen if needed.

Type in your password and click "Login"

Step 1:Proposal Preparation

Once you have logged into the SBIR Submission website, you are at the Submission Main Menu.

From here, you can prepare and submit a SBIR Phase I Proposal, prepare or update the Company Commercialization Report, review the current solicitation instructions or get answers to frequently asked questions about the submission process. Once you have a Phase I award, you may have a use for other selections on this page.

A SBIR Phase I proposal submission package has four volumes:

The first 3 volumes of the proposal package can be prepared in the "SBIR Phase I Proposal Section."

The Company Commercialization Report will be prepared in another section because only one report needs to be prepared for submission with all your Phase I proposals.

"Let's get started by selecting SBIR Phase I Proposal Preparation."

Step 1: Coversheet

Step 1 of the proposal preparation process is the Coversheet.

The table at the bottom of the screen is a reminder of the unique submission requirements of each Component participating in the current solicitation, such as the cost and duration limit of the proposed effort. For more details about a Component's unique requirements refer to the Component's topic section of the solicitation.

This page also has links to the current solicitation's instructions and frequently asked questions.

Click on the "Add New Coversheet" button. On the pull down menu, only DoD Components with topics in the current solicitation will appear. Select the Component your proposal will be going to; then, hit "Continue."

A Coversheet form will be displayed for the Component you have selected. Next, select a Topic number from the pull down menu. As you can see, when you select a topic number, the topic title automatically comes up as the default proposal title. This is a chance to double check that this is the topic you meant to select. Use it or change the proposal title to whatever you like.

Complete the rest of the form, providing the total cost and duration of the project, checking all business certifications that apply.

Two items that people frequently have questions about are the Principal Investigator and the Corporate Official. The Principal Investigator is the technical lead for this project. He or she must spend more than half their time at the company. The Corporate Official is responsible for the business aspects associated with the contract and the project. Carefully enter their contact information. Since proposal status information will usually be sent via email, a screen will ask you to confirm their e-mail addresses. Write a brief abstract and benefits of the proposed work and note keywords to describe this R&D effort. Click "Save" when you are finished.

A confirmation page will appear notifying you that the Coversheet is saved to the database. A Proposal Number - in large, bold blue letters will also be shown.

Write this number down or print this page for your files. You will need it for the header of your technical proposal and later to track your proposal through the submission process or if you have questions for the Help Desk. Now press "Continue" to return to the Coversheet page.

Your proposal number is now displayed in the grid at the top of this page along with directions for completing the other parts of the proposal package. You can edit your Coversheet any time before the solicitation closes by clicking on the proposal number. You'll also see five Action/Status Icons to the right. The dollar sign icon takes you to the Cost Volume form; the print icon allows you to print various parts of your proposal. The "Upload" icon allows you to upload your Technical Volume from your hard drive to the SBIR proposal site.

The verify proposal icon allows you to review your completed proposal package before it is submitted and the red X lets you delete the proposal. If you delete a proposal, it will stay on the website but will not be evaluated, nor will it be possible to change or update the information. If you decide to submit the proposal, it can be undeleted any time prior to the proposal due date.

Step 2: Cost Volume

Step 2 is preparing the Cost Volume. Every proposal must be accompanied by a cost breakdown that follows the guidance specified in the Phase I proposal format section of the Program Solicitation. You have two choices: you can use the on-line Cost Volume form or create a separate Cost Volumeas the last page or pages of your Technical Volume.

Some Components require the on-line Cost Volume form which will be noted in the Component topic section of the solicitation. To use the Cost Volume form, start by selecting the Cost Volume icon.

Some Components prefer or require proposals to be broken down into a Phase I base effort and a Phase I Option effort; others prefer a single effort not exceeding $150 thousand (dollars). The Base and Option efforts, if applicable, should be costed separately.

You will know to do so because the Cost Volume form will be double columned if the Component to whom you are submitting allows options; otherwise only a single column is displayed.

The on-line Cost Volume form adheres to the format specified in the cost breakdown guidance including:

"Clicking on the hyperlinks will give you additional information and some examples. The DCAA publication called 'Information for Contractors' available at has more information regarding Cost Volumes, accounting methods and developing rates."

Not every item in the cost breakdown guidance is applicable to every project; you only need to provide information relative to your proposal.

The most important thing to remember in the Cost Volume section is to provide enough information to allow the Component evaluating the proposal to understand how you will use the requested funds if the contract is awarded. When you have completed all the information, click "save." A confirmation page will appear.

Step 3: Technical Volume

Step 3 in the submission process is the Technical Volume. It should be direct, concise and informative, providing sufficient information to persuade the DoD Component that the proposed work represents an innovative approach to the investigation of an important scientific or engineering problem and is worthy of support. Most important it should clearly demonstrate your firm's R&D expertise as it applies to the Solicitation Topic. The scientific or technical content of the proposal is the principal basis upon which your submission will be evaluated. For that reason, the inclusion of marketing, promotion and other non-project related material is discouraged.

The Technical Volume should be in a single file that you prepare using a word processing package on your computer. It should include any graphics and cover the following 10 items in specific order.

"Detailed information about each of these items is available in the Technical Volume section of the Program Solicitation."

The Technical Volume may not exceed 20 pages, including the Proposal Coversheet, Technical Volume and any enclosures or attachments. Refer to component specific instructions for page limit requirements. Each proposal may address only one topic.

The font size should be no smaller than 10-point type on standard 8 1/2 " X 11" paper with one-inch margins. The header of the Technical Volume should include the Proposal Number, which was assigned when you created the Coversheet, the topic number and your firm name.

In the interest of equity, pages in excess of the 20-page limit (including attachments, appendices, or references, but excluding the Proposal Coversheet, Cost Volume, and Company Commercialization Report) will be reviewed at the discretion of the Component.

All topics are unclassified and only unclassified proposals will be accepted by the DoD SBIR program. If you plan to employ non-U.S. citizens on this proposed effort, you must identify them in the key personnel section of your Technical Volume.

All Technical Volumes are evaluated in a PDF format. This means that only PDF files are accepted on the DoD SBIR Submission website.

"Remember that evaluators will be viewing your proposal in black and white. If your graphics are in color, try to make them high contrast."

To upload your Technical Volume, click on the "upload icon"; then follow the four steps listed on the screen. You are responsible for making sure that your document is virus free before you start the upload. Files with viruses will be deleted immediately. Enter the file you want to upload for the proposal listed at the top of the page by using the browser button. Then, click "Upload Technical Volume" to start the upload process.

Processing time will range from a few seconds to several minutes depending on the file size and the speed of your internet connection.

When the upload is complete, you'll get a confirmation page showing the time and date of the upload, name of the uploaded file, the file size and a new file name, which is your unique proposal number that was assigned when you created the Coversheet. Print this page for your records. You can modify your Technical Volume and upload again at any time prior to the solicitation close; however, each upload overwrites the existing proposal with the new file.

Step 4: Company Commercialization Report

The fourth and final volume in the proposal package is the Company Commercialization Report, which can be used for SBIR and STTR Phase I and Phase II submission packages.

To get to it, click on Main Menu at the top of the screen, then select the Company Commercialization Report link. This report captures the quantitative commercialization results of your firm's previous Phase II SBIR/STTR projects received from any Federal agency, not just from DoD; it must be completed even if your firm has no prior Phase II projects.

Nearly 35 percent of firms that receive SBIR awards are new to the program. A report showing no prior Phase II awards will not affect the firm's ability to obtain an award.

The good news is that it needs to be prepared only once - when you do your first proposal - and can be used with all your proposals.

A separate report is not required for each proposal; however, it is in your best interest to update it for each subsequent solicitation or at least once a year, because the information feeds into the Commercialization Achievement Index or CAI.

A CAI is calculated for firms with four or more completed Phase II awards; firms with fewer than four awards will have a CAI of "N/A," or not-applicable. Think of the CAI as a gauge of how successful a firm has been in transferring the technology from previous SBIR and STTR projects into the commercial sector.

The Commercialization Strategy portion of your Technical Volume - along with your CAI and Phase II sales and investment information outlined on this report - will be used to evaluate your proposal under the "potential for commercial application" criteria mentioned in the overview. Since you have just registered your firm on the site, chances are you will not have any previous Phase II awards. So we can skip to step 3. Click on the "Enter Firm Point of Contact" button.

Fill in the name, phone, fax number and e-mail of the contact designated to verify Phase II commercialization sales and investment figures. This is the person DoD will contact if there are any questions about commercialization resulting from SBIR awards.

The next step, number four, is optional. Here you can add a brief paragraph about your firms' commercialization success not fully captured in Phase II sales and investment figures.

Appropriate information might include commercialization resulting from a previous Phase I award or non-SBIR project, mitigating factors that could account for a low commercialization success rate or recent changes in the firm's organization or personnel designed to increase the firm's rate of success.

Now proceed to step number 5. Click on the "View" button to view and print your Company Commercialization Report, using your browser's print function. Use the "Back" button to return to the screen and click "Done Printing."

Let's go back and take a quick look at step number one because this is where you'll start if your firm has received previous Phase II awards.

You will be asked to provide Phase II Project information, dollar figures for the amount of sales or investment funding resulting from this Phase II project to date and additional information about its use. Repeat for all prior Phase II awards.

To update an existing Phase II project, click on the contract number.

In step number two, update "Firm Information" with anything that has changed since you registered initially.

"Remember the Company Commercialization Report should be updated for each solicitation."

Verification of Proposal

You have now prepared all of the volumes required for a SBIR Phase I proposal. The final step is to check that your submission is complete and ready for review.

To do this, return to the SBIR Submission Main Menu and select "SBIR Phase I Proposal Preparation." On the Proposal Coversheet page, click on the "Verify Proposal" icon.

We recommend that you use the Proposal Checklist as a means of double-checking your work. You should have a Coversheet, Cost Volume, Technical Volume and Company Commercialization Report. Select "view" to review, download and print each section. If you did not use the online cost proposal form, but instead included the Cost Volume as part of your Technical Volume, there will not be a "View" link next to Cost Volume because you will view it in the Technical Volume. You will notice that the Coversheets and Cost Volumes have signature blocks; no signatures are required until the time of award.

If you find any errors, return to the Coversheets or Cost Volume form to edit and save the correction; or to upload the corrected Technical Volume file.

"Remember, what you see is what the evaluators will see! It is also a good idea to print a copy of the package for your files."

You're done! There is no "Submit" button. All complete proposal packages not marked for deletion will automatically be submitted at the solicitation close date. When the solicitation closes, the site will no longer accept changes although you will be able to view and print the proposals you have submitted.

SBIR Updates

"We hope you have enjoyed this tour and will soon be part of the SBIR program. Remember to subscribe to the Listserv to receive email reminders about upcoming Solicitation. Thank you for your attention and good luck!"