Let’s spend some time describing a bit of the philosophical reasoning behind the purpose of SBIR funding. Keep in mind the SBIR stands for Small Business Innovative Research. The focus is on Research. Occasionally, I will work with a client who is looking for funding to build out their business or purchase a tool or instrument so they can expand. One of the more common requests I see is for companies that need to start or scale up production and need to buy an injection mold for their plastic parts. Unfortunately, the SBIR/STTR programs are really not good fits for this. Purchasing tools or capital equipment is not within the scope of SBIR or STTR funding.
In other cases, our clients don’t want to purchase an item, but they want the funds to build the product. They need to pay for engineers, designers, and manufacturers to actually create the thing they want to sell. Again, unfortunately, this sort of work is not really research. When you are exploring whether SBIR/STTR funding is appropriate for a project, remember it’s not about what you want to build with the money. It’s not about creating a smart phone app, or making an instrument, or creating a medical device. The grant money isn’t there for you to build something. It’s there to do research….it’s there for you to prove something, or validate that what you are building actually could function to solve a significant problem. So the goal of the project is doing research to demonstrate the thing you build solves a problem, it’s not there just to fund the building of your thing. You can use the money to build your product, but that is not the primary goal. The goal is to do research to demonstrate you can feasibly solve a problem; building the thing is just one part of the means to that end.