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We encourage applicants or recipients of NIFA grants that support basic science research to explore commercialization through USDA’s SBIR/STTR programs.

We also encourage small business owners or other grant recipients to use NIFA-funded basic research programs to enhance innovation and competitiveness in their commercial operations.

The Relationship Between Science and Commercialization

SBIR/STTR grants address important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits. SBIR/STTR projects frequently involve taking basic research findings to commercialization.

Only qualified small businesses are eligible to apply for SBIR/STTR grants, but we strongly encourage participation from university and government scientists in projects.

Requirements for Consultants and Contractors

For SBIR, nonprofit research institution scientists may serve as consultants or receive a subcontract (limited to no more than 33% of a Phase I award or 50% of a Phase II award) and continue to work full time at their home institution.

For STTR, nonprofit research institutions must conduct a minimum of 30% with a maximum of 60% of the award for Phase I and Phase II, and nonprofit research institution scientists may serve as project directors if there is a co-project director from the small business concern applicant.

Scientists at nonprofit research institutions may serve as the project director on an SBIR grant by reducing employment at their home institution to 49% for the grant duration, and if the SBIR research is performed at a location other than their institution.

It is usually not acceptable for university or government scientists to serve as consultants and have all the research conducted at their institution. Please see the Request for Application for more details.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) 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

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program supports projects that 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/STTR program to enhance the commercial application of their SARE project findings.

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