SBIR Grants: Step 2 – Find a Solicitation


The US Federal Government runs a program titled “Small Business Innovation Research” that gives grants to support R&D efforts of small, US companies.

This is the second post in a series of how-tos to help a company apply for an SBIR Grant.

  1. How to determine eligibility and register for an SBIR small business grant
  2. Find a Solicitation (this post)

Finding a Solicitation

In order to maximize your likelihood of receiving an award, I recommend identifying solicitations closely related to your core business.  If you manufacture medical device parts, and would like some money to R&D a new device, look at the medical solicitations.

On the other hand, if you manufacture metal widgets, I would not recommend applying for a software development grant.

One of the three primary criteria to evaluate the applications is how well key personnel’s qualifications relate to the solicitation.


First, search for a topic.  The DoD SBIR program operates their official Topic Search site at, but it can be difficult to use.  I recommend the free (and extremely useful), a privately run site that has better search and ties in more information than the official site offers.


Spend some time thinking through your envisioned solution.  Try to keep in mind the evaluation criteria:

  1. Scientific and Technical Merit (is it possible? Will it solve the problem as posted?)
  2. Key Personnel’s Qualifications (can your company complete the solution?)
  3. Commercialization Potential (can this be turned into a product to sell to other military and scientific groups?)

The third point is the most vague, but also the most crucial.  If you intelligently select a topic, you should be able to score well on points 1 and 2.  Commercialization potential is vague, but all it really means is this: is the solution generalizable so that it solves other groups problems?

That requirement exists because this program wants to avoid an over-specific solution to the problem limited to the sponsor.  After the Phase I (Proof of Concept) stage, the follow on SBIR grant phases push awardees towards solving problems that you can use to build your company.

That requires an understanding of the potential market.  It is also where you can focus on your vision — how you propose to solve this problem, and other problems like it.


Please feel free to contact me ( with any questions and comments.

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