NASA SBIR/STTR Program Solicitation Details | 2. Definitions

2. Definitions

2.1 Commercialization

Commercialization is a process of developing markets and producing and delivering products or services for sale (whether by the originating party or by others). As used here, commercialization includes both Government and non-Government markets.

2.2 Cooperative Research or Research and Development (R/R&D) Agreement

A financial assistance mechanism used when substantial Federal programmatic involvement with the awardee during performance is anticipated by the issuing agency. The Cooperative R/R&D Agreement contains the responsibilities and respective obligations of the parties.

2.3 Cooperative Research or Research and Development (R/R&D)

For purposes of the NASA STTR Program, cooperative R/R&D is that which is to be conducted jointly by the SBC and the RI in which at least 40 percent of the work (amount requested, including cost sharing if any, less fee if any) is performed by the SBC and at least 30 percent of the work is performed by the RI.

2.4 Essentially Equivalent Work

The "scientific overlap," which occurs when (1) substantially the same research is proposed for funding in more than one contract proposal or grant application submitted to the same Federal agency; (2) substantially the same research is submitted to two or more different Federal agencies for review and funding consideration; or (3) a specific research objective and the research design for accomplishing an objective are the same or closely related in two or more proposals or awards, regardless of the funding source.

2.5 Funding Agreement

Any contract, grant, cooperative agreement, or other funding transaction entered into between any Federal agency and any entity for the performance of experimental, developmental, research and development, services, or research work funded in whole or in part by the Federal Government.

2.6 HUBZone-Owned SBC

"HUBZone" is an area that is located in one or more of the following:

  • A qualified census tract (as defined in section 42(d)(5)(C)(i)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986);
  • A qualified "non-metropolitan county" that is: not located in a metropolitan statistical area (as defined in section 143(k)(2)(B) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986), and
      • in which the median household income is less than 80 percent of the non-metropolitan State median household income, or
      • that based on the most recent data available from the Secretary of Labor, has an unemployment rate that is not less than 140 percent of the statewide average unemployment rate for the State in which the county is located;
  • Lands within the external boundaries of an Indian reservation.

To participate in the HUBZone Empowerment Contracting Program, a concern must be determined to be a "qualified HUBZone small business concern." A firm can be found to be a qualified HUBZone concern, if:

  • It is small,
  • It is located in a "historically underutilized business zone" (HUBZone)
  • It is owned and controlled by one or more U.S. Citizens, and
  • At least 35% of its employees reside in a HUBZone.

2.7 Innovation

Something new or improved, having marketable potential, including (1) development of new technologies, (2) refinement of existing technologies, or (3) development of new applications for existing technologies.

2.8 Intellectual Property (IP)

The separate and distinct types of intangible property that are referred to collectively as "intellectual property," including but not limited to: patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, SBIR/STTR technical data (as defined in Section 2.12), ideas, designs, know-how, business, technical and research methods, and other types of intangible business assets, and including all types of intangible assets either proposed or generated by the SBC as a result of its participation in the SBIR/STTR Program.

2.9 Principal Investigator (PI)

The one individual designated by the applicant to provide the scientific and technical direction to a project supported by the funding agreement.

2.10 Research Institution (RI)

A U.S. research institution is one that is: 1) a contractor-operated Federally funded research and development center, as identified by the National Science Foundation in accordance with the Government wide Federal Acquisition Regulation issued in Section 35(c)(1) of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act (or any successor legislation thereto), or 2) a nonprofit research institution as defined in Section 4(5) of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, or 3) a nonprofit college or university.

2.11 Research or Research and Development (R/R&D)

Any activity that is (1) a systematic, intensive study directed toward greater knowledge or understanding of the subject studied, (2) a systematic study directed specifically toward applying new knowledge to meet a recognized need, or (3) a systematic application of knowledge toward the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods, including the design, development, and improvement of prototypes and new processes to meet specific requirements.

2.12 SBIR/STTR Technical Data

Technical data includes all data generated in the performance of any SBIR/STTR funding agreement.

2.13 SBIR/STTR Technical Data Rights

The rights an SBC obtains for data generated in the performance of any SBIR/STTR funding agreement that an awardee delivers to the Government during or upon completion of a federally funded project, and to which the Government receives a license.

2.14 Small Business Concern (SBC)

Only firms qualifying as SBCs, as defined here:, are eligible to participate in these programs. Socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned SBCs are particularly encouraged to propose. 

1.5.2 Place of Performance  

Research/Research & Development (R/R&D) must be performed in the United States (See: However, based on a rare and unique circumstance (for example, if a supply or material or other item or project requirement is not available in the United States), NASA may allow a particular portion of the research or R&D work to be performed or obtained in a country outside of the United States. Proposals must clearly indicate if any work will be performed outside the United States, including subcontractor performance. Prior to award, approval by the Contracting Officer for such specific condition(s) must be in writing. 

1.5.3 Principal Investigator (PI) Employment Requirement 

The primary employment of the Principal Investigator (PI) shall be with the SBC under the SBIR Program, while under the STTR Program, either the SBC or Research Institution (RI) shall employ the PI. Primary employment means that more than 50% of the PI’s total employed time (including all concurrent employers, consulting and self-employed time) is spent with the SBC or RI at time of award and during the entire period of performance. Primary employment with a small business concern precludes full-time employment at another organization. If the PI does not currently meet these primary employment requirements, then the offeror must explain how these requirements will be met if the proposal is selected for contract negotiations that may lead to an award. Co-Principal Investigators are not allowed. 

Note: NASA considers a full-time workweek to be nominally 40 hours and we consider a 19.9-hour or more workweek elsewhere to be in conflict with this rule. In rare occasions, minor deviations from this requirement may be necessary; however, any minor deviation must be approved in writing by the Contracting Officer after consultation with the NASA SBIR/STTR Program Manager/Business Manager.





Primary Employment

PI shall be primarily employed with the SBC

PI shall be primarily employed with the RI or SBC



The offeror must certify in the proposal that the primary employment of the PI will be with the SBC at the time of award and during the conduct of the project

The offeror must certify in the proposal that the primary employment of the PI will be with the SBC or the RI at the time of award and during the conduct of the project


Not Allowed

Not Allowed

Misrepresentation of Qualifications

Shall result in rejection of the proposal or termination of the contract

Shall result in rejection of the proposal or termination of the contract

Substitution of PIs

Requires a prior approval from NASA

Requires a prior approval from NASA


1.5.4 Restrictions on Venture Capital-owned Businesses 

As set forth in the SBIR Reauthorization Act of 2011, small businesses owned in majority part by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds or private equity firms may be eligible for SBIR awards. SBA's regulations in 13 CFR part 121 set forth the eligibility criteria for SBIR applicants that are owned in majority part by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds or private equity firms. SBIR agencies must submit a written determination (to the SBA; the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship; the House Committee on Small Business and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology) at least 30 calendar days before it begins making awards to SBCs that are owned in majority part by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds or private equity firms. 

Note: At the current time, such firms are not eligible to submit proposals to the NASA SBIR/STTR Solicitation. 

1.5.5 Joint Ventures and Limited Partnerships 

Both joint ventures and limited partnerships are permitted, provided the entity created qualifies as an SBC in accordance with the definition of an SBC here:  A statement of how the workload will be distributed, managed and charged should be included in the proposal. A copy or comprehensive summary of the joint venture agreement or partnership agreement should be included on the Technical Proposal upload page. 

1.5.6 Required Benchmark Transition Rate 

To be eligible for a NASA Phase I SBIR or STTR award, the applicant must meet the Phase I to Phase II Transition Rate Benchmark as required by the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011. The Transition Rate requirement applies only to SBIR and STTR Phase I applicants that have received more than 20 Phase I awards over the past five fiscal years, excluding the most recently completed fiscal year. Companies with more than 20 Phase I awards during the past five years can view their Transition Rate if they log onto their Company Registry account at For these companies, the benchmark establishes a minimum number of Phase II awards the company must have received for a given number of Phase I awards received during the five-year time period in order to be eligible to receive a new Phase I award. This requirement does not apply to companies that have received less than 20 Phase I awards over the five-year period. 

On June 1 of each year, the SBA assesses SBIR/STTR awardees using SBIR and STTR award information across all federal agencies reported on to determine if they meet the benchmark requirements. Companies that failed to meet the transition rate benchmark on June 1, 2017 are not eligible to submit a Phase I proposal during the period June 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018.  Companies were notified by the SBA if they failed to meet the benchmark. 

More information on the Transition Rate requirements is available at

2.15 Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individual

A member of any of the following groups: African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian-Pacific American, Subcontinent-Asian American, other groups designated from time to time by SBA to be socially disadvantaged, or any other individual found to be socially and economically disadvantaged by SBA pursuant to Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 637(a).

2.16 Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Small Business Concern

A socially and economically disadvantaged SBC is one that is: (1) at least 51 percent owned by (i) an Indian tribe or a native Hawaiian organization: or, (ii) one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and (2) whose management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. See 13 CFR Parts 124.103 and 124.104.

2.17 Subcontract

Any agreement, other than one involving an employer-employee relationship, entered into by an awardee of a funding agreement calling for supplies or services for the performance of the original funding agreement.

2.18 United States

Means the 50 States, the territories and possessions of the Federal Government, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau.

2.19 Women-Owned Small Business

A women-owned SBC is one that is at least 51 percent owned by a woman or women who also control and operate it. "Control" in this context means exercising the power to make policy decisions. "Operate" in this context means being actively involved in the day-to-day management.