NASA SBIR/STTR 2018 Program Solicitation Details | 1. Program Description

1. Program Description

1.1 Introduction

This document includes two NASA program solicitations with separate subtopics under which small business concerns (SBCs) are invited to submit proposals:  the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program. Each subtopic will indicate its program of origin. Program background information, eligibility requirements for participants, information on the three program phases, and information for submitting responsive proposals are contained herein. The fiscal year 2018 Solicitation period for Phase I proposals begins January 11, 2018 and ends March 09, 2018.

The NASA SBIR/STTR Programs do not accept proposals solely directed towards system studies, market research, routine engineering, development of existing product(s), proven concepts or modifications of existing products without substantive innovation.

It is anticipated that some SBIR and STTR Phase I proposals will be selected for negotiation of firm-fixed-price contracts approximately during the month of June 2018. Historically, the percentage of Phase I proposals to awards is approximately 13-15%, and approximately 35-40% of the selected Phase I contracts are competitively selected for Phase II follow-on efforts. 

Under this Solicitation NASA will not accept more than 10 proposals to either program from any one firm (20 total) in order to ensure the broadest participation of the small business community. NASA does not plan to award more than 5 SBIR contracts and 2 STTR contracts to any offeror (7 total).  See section 3.1.

Proposals including all relevant documentation must be submitted online via the Proposal Submissions Electronic Handbook at Unsolicited proposals will not be accepted.

1.2 Program Management and Alignment

The Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) provides overall policy direction for implementation of the NASA SBIR/STTR Programs. The NASA SBIR/STTR Program Management Office, which operates the programs in conjunction with NASA mission directorates and centers, is hosted at the NASA Ames Research Center. NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) provides the overall procurement management for the programs. 

For the SBIR Program, NASA research and technology areas to be solicited are identified annually by the agency’s mission directorates. The directorates identify high priority research problems and technology needs for their respective programs and projects. The range of problems and technologies is broad, and the list of topics and subtopics vary in content from year to year to maintain alignment with current interests.

The STTR Program is aligned with the priorities of NASA’s Space Technology Roadmaps, as well as the associated core competencies of the NASA centers. Again, the range of technologies is broad, and the list of topics and subtopics vary in content from year to year to maintain alignment with current interests.

For information regarding the mission directorates and the NASA centers see section 7.1.

For details on the research topic descriptions by Focus Area please see section 9. 

1.3 Three-Phase Program

Both the SBIR and STTR Programs are divided into three funding and development stages. These three phases are described in detail on the NASA SBIR/STTR website:

Phase I and II

Maximum value and period of performance for Phase I and Phase II contracts: 

Phase I Contracts



Maximum Contract Value



Period of Performance

6 months

13 months

Phase II Contracts



Maximum Contract Value



Maximum Period of Performance

24 months

24 months

Post-Phase II Opportunities for Continued Technology Development

The NASA SBIR/STTR Program has two initiatives for supporting its small business partners beyond the basic Phase II award.  These are the Phase II Extended (Phase II-E) contract option and the Civilian Commercialization Readiness Pilot Program (CCRPP) contract. 

Please refer to for eligibility, application deadlines, matching requirements and further information.

Phase III

Phase III is the commercialization of innovative technologies, products and services resulting from either a Phase I or Phase II contract. This includes further development of technologies for transition into NASA programs, other government agencies or the private sector. Phase III contracts are funded from sources other than the SBIR and STTR programs and may be awarded without further competition. 

Please refer to for Phase III information. 

1.4 Availability of Funds

All Phase I and Phase II and post-Phase II awards are subject to availability of funds. NASA has no obligation to make any specific number of awards based on this solicitation, and may elect to make several or no awards in any specific technical topic or subtopic.

1.5 Eligibility Requirements

1.5.1 Small Business Concern 

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

1.6 NASA Technology Available (TAV) for SBIR/STTR Use

Offerors have the option of using technology developed by NASA (Technology Available (TAV)) related to the subtopic to which they are proposing. While NASA scientists and engineers conduct breakthrough research that leads to innovations, the range of NASA's effort does not extend to commercial product development in any of its intramural research areas. Additional work is often necessary to exploit these NASA technologies (TAVs) for either infusion or commercial viability and likely requires innovation on behalf of the private sector. These can be found via the NASA Technology Transfer Portal,, and may be a NASA owned patent and/or computer software. Use of a TAV requires a patent license or Software Usage Agreement from NASA. TAVs are available for use during both Phase I and Phase II award periods, including any extensions. NASA provides these technologies "as is" and makes no representation or guarantee that additional effort will result in infusion or commercial viability. 

Whether or not a firm proposes the use of a NASA patent or computer software within their proposed effort will not in any way be a factor in the selection for award. 

Use of NASA Software

If an offeror intends to use NASA software, a Software Usage Agreement (SUA), on a non-exclusive, royalty-free basis, is necessary, and the clause at 48 C.F.R. 1852.227-88, “Government-Furnished Computer Software and Related Technical Data,” will apply to the contract. A Software Usage Agreement (SUA) shall be requested from the appropriate NASA Center Software Release Authority (SRA), after contract award. 

Use of NASA Patent

All offerors submitting proposals including the use of a NASA patent must submit an application for a non-exclusive, royalty-free research license. The NASA license application is available on the NASA SBIR/STTR website: The completed research license application must be uploaded on the Proposal Certifications page. Such grant of non-exclusive research license will be set forth in the successful offeror’s SBIR/STTR contract. The evaluation license will automatically terminate at the end of the SBIR/STTR contract.  License applications will be treated in accordance with federal patent licensing regulations as provided in 37 CFR Part 404. 

In addition to a research license, if the proposed work includes the making, using or selling of products or services incorporating a NASA patent, successful awardees will be given the opportunity to negotiate a non-exclusive commercialization license or, if available, an exclusive commercialization license to the NASA patent. Commercialization licenses are also provided in accordance with 37 CFR Part 404. 

An SBIR/STTR awardee that has been granted a non-exclusive, royalty-free research license to use a NASA patent under the SBIR/STTR award may, if available and on a non-interference basis, also have access to NASA personnel knowledgeable about the NASA patent. The NASA Intellectual Property Manager (IPM) located at the appropriate NASA center will be available to assist awardees requesting information about a patent that was identified in the SBIR/STTR contract and, if available and on a non-interference basis, provide access to the inventor or surrogate for the purpose of knowledge transfer. 

Note: Access to the inventor for the purpose of knowledge transfer will require the requestor to enter into a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). The awardee may be required to reimburse NASA for knowledge transfer activities.  For Phase I proposals this is a time-consuming process and is not recommended.

1.7 I-Corps

The NASA SBIR/STTR Program is partnering with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to offer the NSF Innovation Corps Program (I-Corps). I-Corps focuses on educating teams on how to translate technologies from the laboratory into the marketplace. Participation in I-Corps will require selected contractors to conduct either 30 interviews (shortened version for the SBIR Program) or 100 interviews (full version for the STTR Program) to enable contractors to understand the commercial potential of their ideas. Selected contractors will be awarded training grants, separate from their Phase I contract, that must be completed prior to the conclusion of Phase I contracts. The program is described further at The application process for I-Corps is described in Section 3.2.6. NASA will conduct an abbreviated competition for I-Corps after it selects offerors for Phase I SBIR and STTR contracts. NASA anticipates awarding a total of approximately 35 grants to SBIR and STTR Phase I contractors. The amount of funding is up to $25,000 for the full I-Corps Program for STTR firms, and up to $10,000 for the shortened version for SBIR firms. 

1.8 Commercialization Technical Assistance

In accordance with the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 632), NASA will authorize the recipient of a Phase II SBIR/STTR award to purchase technical assistance services through an outside vendor, such as access to a network of non-NASA scientists and engineers engaged in a wide range of technologies, or access to technical and business literature available through online databases, for the purpose of assisting such concerns in: 

  1. Making better technical decisions concerning such projects.
  2. Solving technical problems which arise during the conduct of such projects.
  3. Minimizing technical risks associated with such projects.
  4. Developing and commercializing new commercial products and processes resulting from such projects. 

If you are interested in proposing the use of a vendor for technical assistance, you must complete the “Technical Assistance” section located under Other Direct Costs (ODCs) in the Proposal Budget form. You must provide the vendor name and contact information, the proposed amount not to exceed $5,000 and a detailed explanation of the services to be provided. You must also upload a price quote from the vendor including their DUNS number.  Approval of technical assistance is not guaranteed and is subject to review by the Contracting Officer. 

Note: Commercialization assistance does not count toward the maximum award size of your Phase II.

1.9 NASA Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP)

The purpose of the NASA Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) is to provide incentives to NASA contractors, performing under at least one active approved subcontracting plan negotiated with NASA, to assist protégés in enhancing their capabilities to satisfy NASA and other contract and subcontract requirements. The NASA MPP, established under the authority of Title 42, U.S.C., 2473(c)(1) and managed by the Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP), includes an Award Fee Pilot Program.  Under the Award Fee Pilot Program, a mentor is eligible to receive an award fee at the end of the agreement period based upon the mentor’s performance of providing developmental assistance to an active SBIR/STTR Phase II contractor in a NASA Mentor-Protégé agreement (MPA). 

The evaluation criterion is based on the amount and quality of technology transfer and business development skills that will increase the protégé’s Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs). TRLs measure technology readiness on a scale of 1 to 9. A mentor should attempt to raise the TRL of the protégé and outline the goals and objectives in the MPA and the award fee plan. A separate award fee review panel set up by NASA OSBP will use the semiannual reports, annual reviews and the award fee plan in order to determine the amount of award fee given at the end of the performance period of the agreement. 

For more information on the Mentor-Protégé Program please visit:  

1.10 NASA Procurement Ombudsman Program

The NASA Procurement Ombudsman Program is available under this solicitation as a procedure for addressing concerns and disagreements. The clause at NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) 1852.215-84 (“Ombudsman”) is incorporated into this solicitation.

The cognizant ombudsman is:

Monica Manning
Deputy Assistant Administrator for Procurement
Office of Procurement
NASA Headquarters
Washington, DC 20546-0001
Telephone:  202-358-4483
Fax:  202-358-3082

1.11 General Information

1.11.1 Means of Contacting NASA SBIR/STTR Program 

  1. NASA SBIR/STTR Website:
  2. Help Desk: The NASA SBIR/STTR Help Desk can answer any questions regarding clarification of proposal instructions and any administrative matters. The Help Desk may be contacted by: 
    • Email:
    • Telephone:  301-937-0888 between 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (Mon.-Fri., Eastern Time)
    • The requestor must provide the name and telephone number of the person to contact, the organization name and address, and the specific questions or requests.
  3. NASA SBIR/STTR Program Manager: Specific information requests that could not be answered by the Help Desk should be emailed to:

1.11.2 Questions about this Solicitation  

To ensure fairness, questions relating to the intent and/or content of research topics in this Solicitation cannot be addressed during the open solicitation period. Only questions requesting clarification of proposal instructions and administrative matters will be addressed. 

The cut-off date and time for receipt of Phase I solicitation procurement related questions and answers is 5:00 p.m. Eastern, March 22, 2019.   

The cut-off date and time for receipt of Phase II solicitation procurement related questions and answers is seven calendar days prior to the end of the Phase I contract.

1.12 Definitions

A comprehensive list of definitions related to the SBIR and STTR Programs is available at: These definitions include those from the SBIR and STTR policy directives, as well as terms specific to NASA. Offerors are strongly encouraged to review these prior to submitting a proposal.