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To be eligible to receive a USDA SBIR/STTR program award, all awardees are required to certify at the time of award that they meet the size, ownership and control requirements of the programs. USDA’s SBIR/STTR programs follow the eligibility requirements found in the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Policy Directive.

More information on eligibility can also be found in SBA’s Program Basics tutorial, which is intended to help small businesses:

  1. understand the programs’ eligibility requirements
  2. determine if they will be eligible at the time of award
  3. accurately complete the necessary certification

The tutorial explains ownership and control requirements and provides examples. It also explains the 500-employee size limit and how a firm’s affiliates are determined when measuring its size.

See the Tutorial

Note: Phase II applicants must be Phase I awardees.

Other Requirements

  1. Applicants must qualify as a small business concern for research and development (R&D) purposes at the time of award.
  2. For SBIR, applicants must show that the primary employment of the project director (PD) is with the small business concern, at both the time of award and during the conduct of the proposed research. For STTR, the primary employment of the PD or a co-PD must be with the small business concern, both at the time of the award and during the conduct of the proposed research.
  3. The R&D work must be performed in the United States. In rare and unique circumstance — for example, a supply, material or project requirement is not available in the U.S. — agencies may allow that particular portion of the R&D work to be performed outside the U.S.
  4. Consultant services should be performed in the United States. USDA requires that applicants receive approval in writing for any exceptions.

More on Primary Employment

Primary employment means more than one-half (51% or more) of the project director's (for SBIR) or project director or co-project director’s (for STTR) time is spent in the employ of the small business. Primary employment with the small business precludes the individual as a full-time employee with another organization.

While the PD (for SBIR) or PD or co-PD (for STTR) must work more than one-half of their time for the small business during the entire grant period, there is no minimal time requirement for what percentage of the PD’s time is spent working on the proposed research.


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