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Advancing NIFA Basic Research Findings to Commercial Applications

Applicants or recipients of NIFA grants that support basic science research - including the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program - are encouraged to explore potential commercialization through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Conversely, small business owners or other grant recipients are encouraged to use NIFA-funded basic research programs to enhance innovation and competitiveness in their commercial operations.

SBIR grants address important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits. SBIR projects frequently involve taking basic research findings to commercialization. Only qualified small businesses are eligible to apply for SBIR grants, but participation of university and government scientists in projects is strongly encouraged. Scientists may serve as consultants or receive a subcontract (limited to no more than 1/3 of Phase I award or 1/2 of Phase II award) and continue to work full time at their home institution. Scientists may serve as the principal investigator on an SBIR grant, by reducing employment at their home institution to 49% for the grant duration and if the SBIR research is performed someplace other than the academic institution. It is usually not acceptable for university or government scientists to serve as consultants and have all the research done at their institution. Please see the Request for Application for more details.

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative is NIFA's largest competitive grants program. It is charged with advancing research, education, and extension activities to address key problems of national and regional importance in biological, environmental, physical, and social sciences relevant to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities. Competition is open to scientists at all academic institutions, Federal research agencies, private and industrial organizations, and as individuals. The potential role of small businesses in the AFRI grant application varies by program and can include, sole applicant, partner with a University, user of results, etc.

The Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support R&D in advanced biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products.  For fiscal year 2012, BRDI requires applicants to integrate science and engineering research in all three legislatively mandated technical areas which include: (A) Feedstocks development, (B) Biofuels and biobased products development, and (C) Biofuels and biobased products development analysis.  Small Businesses have developed demonstration projects that are appropriate to the BRDI program in the past to further their R&D and commercialization potential.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program supports projects to enhance knowledge about - and help farmers and ranchers adopt - practices that are profitable, environmentally sound, and good to communities. Application details, deadlines, and percent success vary by region and program. Past SARE grant recipients have used the SBIR program to enhance the commercial application of their SARE project findings.

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