NASA SBIR/STTR Program Solicitation Details | 1. Program Description

1. Program Description

1.1 Introduction

This document includes instructions for two NASA program solicitations with separate subtopics under which small business concerns (SBCs) are invited to submit proposals:  the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. While the SBIR and STTR subtopics appear in an integrated list in Chapter 9, each subtopic will indicate its program of origin. Program background information, eligibility requirements for participants, information on the three program phases, and information for submitting responsive proposals are contained herein. The fiscal year 2020 Solicitation period for Phase I proposals begins January 21, 2020 and ends March 20, 2020.

The NASA SBIR and STTR Programs do not fund proposals solely directed towards system studies, market research, routine engineering, development of existing product(s), proven concepts, or modifications of existing products without substantive innovation.

It is anticipated that some SBIR and STTR Phase I proposals will be selected for negotiation of firm-fixed-price contracts approximately during the month of June 2020. Historically, 24 percent of SBIR Phase I proposal submissions receive  awards,  while  35  percent  of  STTR  Phase  I  proposals  receive  awards.  About  41  percent  of  the  completed  Phase  I  projects  receive  funding  for  Phase  II  development.

Under this Solicitation NASA will not accept more than 10 proposals to either program from any one firm (20 total) in order to ensure the broadest participation of the small business community. NASA does not plan to award more than 5 SBIR contracts and 2 STTR contracts (7 total) to any offeror. See section 3.1.

Proposals including all relevant documentation must be submitted online via the Proposal Submissions Electronic Handbook at Unsolicited proposals will not be accepted.

1.2 Program Management and Alignment

The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) provides overall policy direction for implementation of the NASA SBIR/STTR Programs. The NASA SBIR/STTR Program Management Office, which operates the programs in conjunction with NASA mission directorates and centers, is hosted at the NASA Ames Research Center. NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) provides the overall procurement management for the programs. 

For the SBIR Program, NASA research and technology areas to be solicited are identified annually by the agency’s mission directorates. The directorates identify high priority research problems and technology needs for their respective programs and projects. The range of problems and technologies is broad, and the list of topics and subtopics vary in content from year to year to maintain alignment with current interests.

The STTR Program is aligned with the priorities of NASA’s Space Technology Roadmaps, as well as the associated core competencies of the NASA centers. Again, the range of technologies is broad, and the list of topics and subtopics vary in content from year to year to maintain alignment with current interests.

For information regarding the mission directorates and the NASA centers see section 7.1.

For details on the research subtopic descriptions by Focus Area please see section 9.

1.3 Three-Phase Program

Both the SBIR and STTR Programs are divided into three funding and development stages. These three phases are described in detail on the NASA SBIR/STTR website:

Phase I and II

Maximum value and period of performance for Phase I and Phase II contracts:


Phase I Contracts



Maximum Contract Value



Period of Performance

6 months

13 months

Phase II Contracts



Maximum Contract Value



Maximum Period of Performance

24 months

24 months



Post-Phase II Opportunities for Continued Technology Development

The NASA SBIR/STTR Program has two initiatives for supporting its small business partners beyond the basic Phase II award. These are the Phase II Extended (Phase II-E) contract option and the Civilian Commercialization Readiness Pilot Program (CCRPP) contract.

Please refer to for eligibility, application deadlines, matching requirements and further information.

Phase III

Phase III is the commercialization of innovative technologies, products and services resulting from either a Phase I or Phase II contract. This includes further development of technologies for transition into NASA programs, other government agencies or the private sector. Phase III contracts are funded from sources other than the SBIR and STTR programs and may be awarded without further competition.

Please refer to for Phase III information.

1.4 Availability of Funds

All Phase I, Phase II and post-Phase II awards are subject to availability of funds. NASA has no obligation to make any specific number of awards based on this solicitation, and may elect to make several or no awards in any specific technical topic or subtopic.

1.5 Eligibility Requirements

1.5.1 Small Business Concern 

To receive SBIR/STTR funds, each Awardee of a Phase I or Phase II award must qualify as an SBC at the time of award and at any other time set forth in SBA’s regulations at 13 CFR 121.701-121.705.

Each Phase I and Phase II Awardee must submit a certification stating that it meets the size, ownership and other requirements of the SBIR or STTR program at the time of award, and at any other time set forth in SBA’s regulations at 13 CFR 121.701-121.705. Socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned SBCs are particularly encouraged to propose.

1.5.2 Place of Performance

Research/Research & Development (R/R&D) must be performed in the United States (See: However, based on a rare and unique circumstance (for example, if a supply, material or other item or project requirement is not available in the United States), NASA may allow a particular portion of the research or R&D work to be performed or obtained in a country outside of the United States. Proposals must clearly indicate if any work will be performed outside the United States, including subcontractor performance, and justification must be provided. Prior to award, approval by the Contracting Officer for such specific condition(s) must be in writing.

Note: NASA will not approve purchases from or work with countries that appear on the list of Designated Countries. For reference, please visit - Designated Countries List

1.5.3 Principal Investigator (PI) Employment Requirement.

The primary employment of the Principal Investigator (PI) shall be with the SBC under the SBIR Program, while under the STTR Program, either the SBC or Research Institution (RI) shall employ the PI. Primary employment means that more than 50% of the PI’s total employed time (including all concurrent employers, consulting and self-employed time) is spent with the SBC or RI at time of award and during the entire period of performance. Primary employment with a small business concern precludes full-time employment at another organization. If the PI does not currently meet these primary employment requirements, then the offeror must explain how these requirements will be met if the proposal is selected for contract negotiations that may lead to an award. Co-Principal Investigators are not allowed.

Note: NASA considers a full-time workweek to be nominally 40 hours and we consider a 19.9-hour or more workweek elsewhere to be in conflict with this rule. In rare occasions, minor deviations from this requirement may be necessary; however, any minor deviation must be approved in writing by the Contracting Officer after consultation with the NASA SBIR/STTR Program Manager/Business Manager.




Primary Employment

PI shall be primarily employed with the SBC

PI shall be primarily employed with the RI or SBC



The offeror must certify in the proposal that the primary employment of the PI will be with the SBC at the time of award and during the conduct of the project

The offeror must certify in the proposal that the primary employment of the PI will be with the SBC or the RI at the time of award and during the conduct of the project


Not Allowed

Not Allowed

Misrepresentation of Qualifications

Shall result in rejection of the proposal or termination of the contract

Shall result in rejection of the proposal or termination of the contract

Substitution of PIs

Requires a prior approval from NASA

Requires a prior approval from NASA


 1.5.4 Restrictions on Venture Capital-owned Businesses

At the current time, small businesses owned in majority part by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds or private equity firms are not eligible to submit proposals to the NASA SBIR/STTR Solicitation.

1.5.5 Joint Ventures and Limited Partnerships

Both joint ventures and limited partnerships are permitted, provided the entity created qualifies as an SBC in accordance with the definition of an SBC here:  A statement of how the workload will be distributed, managed and charged should be included in the proposal. A copy or comprehensive summary of the joint venture agreement or partnership agreement should be included on the Technical Proposal upload page.

1.5.6 Required Benchmark Transition Rate

The Phase I to Phase II Transition Rate requirement applies only to SBIR and STTR Phase I applicants that have received more than 20 (21 or more) Phase I awards over the past 5 fiscal years, excluding the most recent year.  These companies must meet the required benchmark rate of transition from Phase I to Phase II.  The current Transition Rate requirement, agreed upon and established by all 11 SBIR agencies and published for public comment at 77 FR 63410 in October 2012 and amended at 78 FR 30951 in May 2013, is that an awardee must have received an average of one Phase II for every four Phase I awards received during the most recent 5-year time period (which excludes the most recently-completed fiscal year) to be eligible to submit a proposal for a new Phase I (or Direct-to-Phase II) award.  That is, the ratio of Phase II to Phase I awards must be at least 0.25.

On June 1 of each year, the SBA assesses SBIR/STTR awardees using SBIR and STTR award information across all federal agencies reported on to determine if they meet the benchmark requirements. Companies that failed to meet the transition rate benchmark on June 1, 2019 are not eligible to submit a Phase I proposal during the period June 1, 2019 through May 31, 2020.  Companies were notified by the SBA if they failed to meet the benchmark and can find their status at any time on .

More information on the Transition Rate requirements is available at

1.6 NASA Technology Available (TAV) for SBIR/STTR Use

Offerors have the option of using technology developed by NASA (Technology Available (TAV)) related to the subtopic to which they are proposing. NASA has over 1400 patents available for licensing in its portfolio, including many sensors and materials related patents.  NASA has over 1000 available software codes/tools listed in its Software Catalog ( While NASA scientists and engineers conduct breakthrough research that leads to innovations, the range of NASA's effort does not extend to commercial product development in any of its intramural research areas. Additional work is often necessary to exploit these NASA technologies (TAVs) for either infusion or commercial viability and likely requires innovation on behalf of the private sector. These technologies can be searched via the NASA Technology Transfer Portal,, and may be a NASA owned patent and/or computer software. Use of a TAV requires a patent license or Software Usage Agreement from NASA. TAVs are available for use during both Phase I and Phase II award periods, including any extensions. NASA provides these technologies "as is" and makes no representation or guarantee that additional effort will result in infusion or commercial viability.

Whether or not a firm proposes the use of a NASA patent or computer software within their proposed effort will not in any way be a factor in the selection for award.

Use of NASA Software

If an offeror intends to use NASA software, a Software Usage Agreement (SUA), on a non-exclusive, royalty-free basis, is necessary, and the clause at 48 C.F.R. 1852.227-88, “Government-Furnished Computer Software and Related Technical Data,” will apply to the contract. A Software Usage Agreement (SUA) shall be requested from the appropriate NASA Center Software Release Authority (SRA), after contract award.

Use of NASA Patent

All offerors submitting proposals including the use of a NASA patent must submit an application for a non-exclusive, royalty-free evaluation license. Once a firm has identified a patent to license in the NASA patent portfolio (, there is a link on the patent webpage that says “Click Here to License this Technology”.  Firms will be directed to NASA’s Automated Licensing System (ATLAS) to finalize their license with the appropriate field center technology transfer office.  The completed evaluation license application must be uploaded on the EHB Proposal Certifications page. Such grant of non-exclusive evaluation license will be set forth in the successful offeror’s SBIR/STTR contract. The evaluation license will automatically terminate at the end of the SBIR/STTR contract.  License applications will be treated in accordance with federal patent licensing regulations as provided in 37 CFR Part 404.

In addition to an evaluation license, if the proposed work includes the making, using or selling of products or services incorporating a NASA patent, successful awardees will be given the opportunity to negotiate a non-exclusive commercialization license or, if available, an exclusive commercialization license to the NASA patent. Commercialization licenses are also provided in accordance with 37 CFR Part 404.

An SBIR/STTR awardee that has been granted a non-exclusive, royalty-free evaluation license to use a NASA patent under the SBIR/STTR award may, if available and on a non-interference basis, also have access to NASA personnel knowledgeable about the NASA patent. Licensing Executives located at the appropriate NASA field center will be available to assist awardees requesting information about a patent that was identified in the SBIR/STTR contract and, if available and on a non-interference basis, provide access to the inventor or surrogate for the purpose of knowledge transfer.

Note: Access to the inventor for the purpose of knowledge transfer will require the requestor to enter into a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), or other agreement, such as a Space Act Agreement. The awardee may be required to reimburse NASA for knowledge transfer activities.  For Phase I proposals this is a time-consuming process and is not recommended.

1.7 I-Corps™

The NASA SBIR/STTR Program is partnering with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to offer the NSF Innovation Corps Program (I-Corps ™) (hereinafter I-Corps).  I-Corps focuses on educating teams on how to translate technologies from the laboratory into the marketplace. Participation in I-Corps will require selected contractors to conduct either 30 interviews (shortened version for the SBIR Program) or 100 interviews (full version for the STTR Program) to enable contractors to understand the commercial potential of their ideas. Selected contractors will be awarded training grants, separate from their Phase I contract, that must be completed prior to the conclusion of Phase I contracts. The program is described further at The application process for I-Corps is described in Section 3.3.6. NASA will conduct an abbreviated competition for I-Corps after it selects offerors for Phase I SBIR and STTR contracts. NASA anticipates awarding a total of approximately 35 grants to SBIR and STTR Phase I contractors. The distribution is expected to be approximately 10 STTR teams and 25 SBIR teams. The amount of funding is up to $25,000 for the full I-Corps Program for STTR firms, and up to $10,000 for the shortened version for SBIR firms.

1.8 Technical and Business Assistance (TABA)

SEC. 854(c) of H.R.5515 - John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 revised the requirements of the 2011 SBIR Reauthorization for Direct Technical Assistance to awardees. The 2019 NDAA contained language that each agency “may” implement a Technical and Business Assistance (TABA) program and revised the amount agencies may make available for this assistance. At this time, NASA is allowing Phase II companies to request TABA assistance at a maximum of $5,000 per year per Phase II project while NASA evaluates how to implement an expanded Phase II TABA program for future year solicitations. Requesting TABA funding does not count toward the maximum award size of your Phase II contract. Phase I companies are not permitted to request TABA funding at this time; however, NASA is currently evaluating how to implement an expanded Phase I TABA program for the future.

In accordance with the Small Business Act, NASA may authorize the recipient of a Phase II SBIR/STTR award to purchase technical and business assistance services through one or more outside vendors. The offeror may also seek business-related services aimed at improving its commercialization success from an entity, such as a public or private organization or an agency of or other entity established or funded by a State that facilitates or accelerates the commercialization of technologies or assists in the creation and growth of private enterprises that are commercializing technology                                                                                                                      

These services may, as determined appropriate, include access to a network of non-NASA scientists and engineers engaged in a wide range of technologies, assistance with product sales, intellectual property protections, market research, market validation, and development of regulatory plans and manufacturing plans, or access to technical and business literature available through online databases, for the purpose of assisting such concerns in:

  1. Making better technical decisions concerning such projects.
  2. Solving technical problems which arise during the conduct of such projects.
  3. Minimizing technical risks associated with such projects.
  4. Commercializing new commercial products and processes resulting from such projects, including intellectual property protections.

If you are interested in proposing the use of a vendor for technical and business assistance, you must complete the Technical and Business Assistance section located under Other Direct Costs (ODCs) in the Proposal Budget form. You must provide the vendor name and contact information, the proposed amount not to exceed $5,000 per year per Phase II project and a detailed explanation of the services to be provided. You must also upload a price quote from the vendor including their DUNS number. Technical and business assistance does not count toward the maximum award size of your Phase II. Approval of technical and business assistance is not guaranteed and is subject to review by the Contracting Officer.

A description of any technical and business assistance obtained under this section and the benefits and results of the technical or business assistance provided will be a required deliverable of your Phase II contract.

1.9 NASA Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP)

The purpose of the NASA Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) is to provide incentives to NASA contractors, performing under at least one active approved subcontracting plan negotiated with NASA, to assist protégés in enhancing their capabilities to satisfy NASA and other contract and subcontract requirements. The NASA MPP, established under the authority of Title 42, U.S.C., 2473(c)(1) and managed by the Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), includes an Award Fee Pilot Program.  Under the Award Fee Pilot Program, a mentor is eligible to receive an award fee at the end of the agreement period based upon the mentor’s performance of providing developmental assistance to an active SBIR/STTR Phase II contractor in a NASA Mentor-Protégé agreement (MPA).

The evaluation criterion is based on the amount and quality of technology transfer and business development skills that will increase the protégé’s Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). TRLs measure technology readiness on a scale of 1 to 9. A mentor should attempt to raise the TRL of the protégé and outline the goals and objectives in the MPA and the award fee plan. A separate award fee review panel set up by NASA OSBP will use the semiannual reports, annual reviews and the award fee plan in order to determine the amount of award fee given at the end of the performance period of the agreement.

For more information on the Mentor-Protégé Program please visit:

1.10 NASA Procurement Ombudsman Program

The NASA Procurement Ombudsman Program is available under this solicitation as a procedure for addressing concerns and disagreements. The clause at NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) 1852.215-84 (“Ombudsman”) is incorporated into this solicitation.

The cognizant ombudsman is:

William Roets
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Procurement
Office of Procurement
NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC 20546-0001
Telephone:  202-358-4483
Fax:  202-358-3082

1.12 Definitions

A comprehensive list of definitions related to the SBIR and STTR Programs is available at: These definitions include those from the SBIR and STTR policy directives, as well as terms specific to NASA. Offerors are strongly encouraged to review these prior to submitting a proposal.