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Both the SBIR and STTR programs are focused on developing innovative solutions to pressing problems that can then be commercialized as new products and services or as improvements to existing ones. There are, however, two key differences between them.

USDA SBIR/STTR Program Coordinator Melinda Coffman describes the differences between the SBIR and STTR programs.

First, an STTR project requires the small business to be teamed with a nonprofit research institution (RI), typically a university or federal laboratory. The small business is always the applicant to the STTR program.

Second, the STTR program is focused on technology transfer from the nonprofit research institution (RI) to the small business and ultimately to the marketplace.

Other Notable Differences

In addition to the two key differences mentioned above, there are other, more subtle differences between SBIR and STTR. Some of these are outlined in the table below; consult SBIR Program Tutorial Three for more information.


Nonprofit Research Institution or Federally Funded R&D Center Participation May Must
% Participation of Nonprofit Research Institution or Federally Funded R&D Center 33% or less (Phase I); <50% (Phase II) 30 to 60% (Phase I and Phase II)
Principal Investigator Must be employed with small business May be employed with either small business or non-profit research institution
Formal Cooperative Agreement Required Outlining Intellectual Property Rights No Yes


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