1. Program Description
1.1 Executive Summary
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Ignite Solicitation is a limited pilot program focused on technologies with a strong commercial pull. The topic areas of interest for this solicitation have been specifically selected for their commercial relevance. Offerors must demonstrate their understanding of the market and provide a strong plan for commercialization of the technology to be competitive for award.
NASA requests Small Business Concerns (SBCs) to submit proposals for the SBIR Ignite solicitation during fiscal year (FY) 2022.This solicitation includes instructions for SBCs to submit complete proposal packages as well as background information, eligibility and certification requirements, evaluation criteria, and contracting considerations. Details on the research topic areas appear in section 9. Communication between NASA and the firm is through email during the solicitation period. The SBIR Ignite proposal submission period begins on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 and ends at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, September 1, 2022.
The NASA SBIR program focuses on transforming scientific discovery into products and services through innovations that have potential for infusion into NASA programs and missions, potential for commercialization into commercial markets, and societal benefit. Unlike fundamental research, the NASA SBIR program supports small businesses in the creation of innovative, disruptive technologies and enables the application of research advancements from concept to market. Unlike most investors, the NASA SBIR program provides non-dilutive funding at the earliest stages of company and technology development.
1.2 Legislative Authority and Background
The SBIR program was established under the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 (P.L. 97-219) with the purpose of strengthening the role of innovative small business concerns in federally funded research and development (R&D). The SBIR program has been reauthorized and extended multiple times since its creation, the most recent being the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Pub. L. 114–328, §1834(a) which extended it through September 30, 2022. This authorization is codified in the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 638) and policy is provided by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the SBIR/STTR Policy Directive.
The SBIR program is intended to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds to build a strong national economy by stimulating technological innovation in the private sector; strengthening the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs; increasing the commercial application of federally supported research results; and fostering and encouraging participation by socially and economically disadvantaged and women-owned small businesses.
1.3 Program Management & Administration
NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) provides overall policy direction for implementation of the NASA SBIR program. The NASA SBIR/STTR Program Management Office (PMO), hosted at the NASA Ames Research Center (ARC), operates the program in conjunction with NASA mission directorates and field centers. For additional information on the mission directorates, see section 7.1. Additionally, the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) provides the overall procurement management for the programs.
1.4 Availability of Funds
There is no commitment by NASA to fund any proposal or to make a specific number of awards and NASA may elect to make several or no awards in any specific research topic. Number of awards will be based on the level of appropriated funding provided to the program. Currently, it is anticipated that the SBIR Ignite Phase I proposals will be selected in November 2022 for negotiation of firm-fixed-price contracts. Awarded contracts will have a period of performance not to exceed six (6) months.
Due to the limited pilot nature of this solicitation, NASA will not accept more than two (2) complete proposal packages from any one firm to ensure the broadest participation of the small business community. NASA does not plan to award more than one (1) SBIR contract to any offeror.
This solicitation will be released prior to the passage of an appropriations act for FY 2023. Enactment of continuing resolutions or an appropriations act may affect the availability or level of funding for this program and may delay the award and start dates of Phase I contracts or impact the number of awards or maximum contract value levels.
1.5 Three-Phase Program
The standard three phases of the NASA SBIR/STTR program are described in detail on the NASA SBIR/STTR website: https://sbir.nasa.gov/content/nasa-sbirsttr-basics.
Phase I projects should demonstrate technical feasibility of the proposed innovation and the potential for infusion within a NASA program or mission and/or use in the commercial market. The maximum value of a Phase I award is $150,000 and the period of performance is 6 months.
Phase II proposals continue the R&D developed under Phase I to bring the innovation closer to infusion into a NASA program or mission and/or commercialization of the innovation. Only Phase I awardees are eligible to submit a Phase II proposal at the conclusion of the Phase I contract. The maximum value of a Phase II award is $850,000 and the maximum period of performance is 24 months.
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 https://sbir.nasa.gov/content/post-phase-ii-initiatives#Phase-III for Phase III information.
Post-Phase II Opportunities for Continued Technology Development and Transition
NASA recognizes that Phase I and II awards may not be sufficient in either dollars or time for the firm to complete the total R/R&D and commercialization activities required to make the project ready for infusion or commercialization. Therefore, NASA has several initiatives for supporting its SBCs beyond their Phase I and Phase II awards. Firms are encouraged to line up funding commitments from investors early in the process to position themselves for NASA SBIR’s Phase II-E and CCRPP matched funding opportunities. Please refer to https://sbir.nasa.gov/content/post-phase-ii-initiatives for the most up-to-date information on eligibility, application deadlines, and matching requirements.
1.6 Eligibility Requirements
For additional information on eligibility requirements, please visit: https://www.sbir.gov/about.
1.6.1 Small Business Concern (SBC) Certification
Each Phase I and Phase II awardee must submit a certification stating that it meets the size, ownership and other requirements of the SBIR program at the time of award, and at any other time set forth in the regulations at 13 CFR §§ 121.701-121.705. Socially and economically disadvantaged, and women-owned SBCs are particularly encouraged to propose.
1.6.2 Performance of Work Requirements
For SBIR Phase I, a minimum of two-thirds of the research or analytical effort must be performed by the awardee. For SBIR Phase II, a minimum of one-half of the research or analytical effort must be performed by the awardee. Occasionally, deviations from these SBIR requirements may occur. Any deviations must be approved in writing by the Contracting Officer after consultation with the agency SBIR Program Manager.
1.6.3 Employment of the Principal Investigator
For both Phase I and Phase II, the primary employment of the Principal Investigator (PI) must be with the SBC at the time of award and during the conduct of the proposed project. Primary employment means that more than one-half of the PI’s employment time is spent in the employ of the SBC and precludes full-time employment with another organization. An SBC may replace the PI on an SBIR/STTR Phase I or Phase II award, subject to approval in writing by the Contracting Officer. Occasionally, deviations from these SBIR requirements may occur. Any deviations must be approved in writing by the Contracting Officer after consultation with the agency SBIR Program Manager.
1.6.4 Location of Work and American-made Products and Equipment
For both Phase I and Phase II, the R/R&D work must be performed in the United States. In addition, when purchasing equipment or products under the SBIR funding agreement, purchase only American-made items whenever possible. However, based on a rare and unique circumstance, agencies may approve a particular portion of the R/R&D work to be performed or obtained in a country outside of the United States, for example, if a supply or material or other item or project requirement is not available in the United States. The Contracting Officer must approve each such specific condition in writing.
Proposal packages must clearly indicate if any work will be performed outside the United States, including subcontractor performance, and justification must be provided by completing the “Request to Use a Foreign Vendor/Purchase of Items from a Foreign Vendor” form found in Chapter 8 at https://sbir.nasa.gov/solicit/80089/detail?data=ch8 and uploaded in the budget form. Note: NASA will not approve purchases from or work with countries that appear on the list of Designated Countries. For reference, please see https://www.nasa.gov/oiir/export-control.
1.6.5 Novated/Successor in Interested/Revised Funding Agreements
An SBIR awardee may include, and SBIR work may be performed by, those identified via a “novated” or “successor in interest” or similarly revised funding agreement. In addition, an SBIR awardee may include those that have merely reorganized with the same key staff, regardless of whether they have been assigned a different tax identification number. In cases where there is a novation or similarly revised funding agreement, agencies may require the original awardee to relinquish its rights and interests in an SBIR project in favor of another applicant as a condition for that applicant's eligibility to participate in the programs for that project.
1.6.6 Majority-Owned by Multiple VCOCs, Hedge Funds or Private Equity Firms
While agencies may choose to make a small percentage of its awards to small businesses owned in majority part by multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, or private equity firms, NASA chooses not to utilize this funding option. Thus, these types of firms are not eligible to submit a proposal under this NASA SBIR Ignite solicitation. In addition, a firm owned in majority part by a single venture capital operating company, hedge fund, or private equity firm does not qualify as a small business.
1.6.7 Required Benchmark Transition Rate
The Phase I to Phase II transition rate requirement applies to SBIR Phase I offerors that have received more than 20 (21 or more) Phase I awards over the past 5 fiscal years, excluding the most recent year. These companies must meet the required benchmark rate of transition from Phase I to Phase II. The current transition rate requirement, agreed upon and established by all 11 agencies that have SBIR/STTR programs and published for public comment at 77 FR 63410 in October 2012 and amended at 78 FR 30951 in May 2013, is that an awardee must have received an average of one Phase II for every four Phase I awards received during the most recent 5-year time period (which excludes the most recently completed fiscal year) to be eligible to submit a proposal for a new Phase I (or Direct-to-Phase II) award. That is, the ratio of Phase II to Phase I awards must be at least 0.25.
On June 1 of each year, the SBA assesses SBIR awardees using SBIR award information across all Federal agencies reported on https://www.sbir.gov/ to determine if they meet the benchmark requirements. Companies that failed to meet the transition rate benchmark on June 1, 2022, are not eligible to submit a Phase I proposal during the period June 1, 2022, through May 31, 2023. Companies were notified by the SBA if they failed to meet the benchmark and can find their status at any time on https://www.sbir.gov/. More information on the transition rate requirements is available at https://www.sbir.gov/faqs/performance-benchmarks.
1.7 NASA Technology Available (TAV) for SBIR Use
Offerors have the option of using technology developed by NASA (Technology Available (TAV)) in their proposal. Whether or not a firm proposes the use of a NASA patent or computer software within its proposed effort will not in any way be a factor in the selection for award.
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. Additional work is often necessary to exploit these NASA technologies for either infusion or commercial viability and likely requires innovation on behalf of the private sector. NASA provides these technologies "as is" and makes no representation or guarantee that additional effort will result in infusion or commercial viability.
1.7.1 Use of NASA Software
NASA has over 1,000 available software applications/tools listed in its Software Catalog (https://software.nasa.gov). If an offeror intends to use NASA software, a Software Usage Agreement (SUA), on a nonexclusive, 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. The SUA shall be requested from the appropriate NASA Center Software Release Authority (SRA), after contract award. The SUA must be provided with the proposal package
1.7.2 Use of NASA Patent
NASA has over 1,400 patents available for licensing in its portfolio (https://technology.nasa.gov/). Offerors submitting a proposal that includes the use of a NASA patent must apply for a nonexclusive, royalty-free evaluation license through the link “Apply Now to License this Technology” on the technology portfolio page. The Automated Licensing System (ATLAS) will direct them to finalize their license with the appropriate field center technology transfer office. The completed evaluation license application must be provided with the proposal package.
The grant of nonexclusive evaluation license will be set forth in the successful offeror’s SBIR contract and will automatically terminate at the end of the SBIR contract. License applications will be treated in accordance with Federal patent licensing regulations as provided in 37 CFR Part 404. In addition to an evaluation 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 nonexclusive 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 awardee that has been granted a nonexclusive, royalty-free evaluation license to use a NASA patent may, if available and on a noninterference basis, also have access to NASA personnel knowledgeable about the NASA patent. Licensing Executives at the appropriate NASA center can assist awardees requesting information about a patent and, if available and on a noninterference 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 an agreement and the awardee may be required to reimburse NASA. For Phase I proposals, this can be a time-consuming process and is not recommended.
NASA has partnered with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to allow Phase I awardees the opportunity to participate in the NSF Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) program. Phase I awardees are encouraged to participate in this training which is designed to lower the market risk inherent in bringing a product or innovation to market, thereby improving the chances for a viable business. The NASA I-Corps program enables small businesses, including startup firms, to increase the odds of accelerating the process of developing their SBIR technologies into a repeatable and scalable business model. The program accomplishes this by putting the firms through a version of the Lean Launchpad/I-Corps process, which includes:
- Developing their business model hypotheses using the Business Model Canvas.
- Testing those hypotheses through the Customer Development Interview process.
The intended results of I-Corps are to enable firms to conduct customer discovery to learn their customers' needs, to obtain a better understanding of their company's value proposition as it relates to those customer needs, and to develop an outline of a business plan for moving forward. For more information on the NASA I-Corps program, see https://sbir.nasa.gov/content/I-Corps.
Offerors who are selected for Phase I contract negotiations will be provided the opportunity to participate in the NASA SBIR/STTR I-Corps program as indicated in Section 220.127.116.11. I-Corps awards will be made separately from the Phase I contract as a training grant. NASA will conduct an abbreviated competition for I-Corps after Phase I Offerors are selected for Phase I SBIR contracts. The amount of funding is up to $10,000 for the shortened I-Corps version for SBIR firms.
1.9 Technical and Business Assistance (TABA)
The Small Business Act 15 U.S.C. 631, Section 9 (q) Discretionary Technical and Business Assistance permits SBIR Phase I and II awardees to enter into agreements with one or more vendors to provide Technical and Business Assistance (TABA). TABA allows an additional supplement to the award ($6,500 for Phase I and $50,000 for Phase II) and is aimed at improving the commercialization success of SBIR awardees. TABA may be obtained from entities such as public or private organizations, including an entity established or funded by a U.S. state that facilitates or accelerates the commercialization of technologies or assists in the creation and growth of private enterprises that are commercializing technology.
In accordance with the Small Business Act, NASA may authorize the recipient of an SBIR award to purchase technical and business assistance services through one or more outside vendors. These services may, as determined appropriate, include access to a network of non-NASA scientists and engineers engaged in a wide range of technologies, assistance with product sales, intellectual property protections, market research, market validation, and development of regulatory plans and manufacturing plans, or access to technical and business literature available through online databases, for the purpose of assisting such concerns in:
- Making better technical decisions concerning such projects;
- Solving technical problems that arise during the conduct of such projects;
- Minimizing technical risks associated with such projects; or
- Commercializing new commercial products and processes resulting from such projects, including intellectual property protections.
For information on how to request TABA, please see sections 18.104.22.168 or 22.214.171.124, Request for Use of Technical and Business Assistance Funds. Technical and business assistance does not count towards the maximum award amount of your contract. Approval of technical and business assistance is not guaranteed and is subject to review by the Contracting Officer and the SBIR/STTR Program Management Office. A description of any technical and business assistance obtained under this section and the benefits and results of the technical or business assistance provided will be a required deliverable of your contract.
1.10 Small Business Administration (SBA) Applicant Resources
The SBA oversees the Federal SBIR and STTR programs. The SBA has resources that small businesses can take advantage of in learning about each of the programs and obtaining help in developing a complete proposal package to submit to a Federal SBIR/STTR program. Offerors are encouraged to review the information that is provided at the following links: https://www.sbir.gov/, https://www.sba.gov/local-assistance, and at https://www.sbir.gov/resources.
1.11 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, United States Code (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). For more information on the Mentor-Protégé Program, please visit https://www.osbp.nasa.gov/mpp/index.html.
1.12 Fraud, Waste and Abuse and False Statements
Fraud is described as “any false representation about a material fact or any intentional deception designed to deprive the United States unlawfully of something of value or to secure from the United States a benefit, privilege, allowance, or consideration to which an individual or business is not entitled.”
Knowingly and willfully making any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations may be a felony under the Federal Criminal False Statement Act (18 U.S.C., section 1001), punishable by a fine and imprisonment of up to 5 years in prison. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has full access to all proposal packages submitted to NASA.
The Federal Government reserves the right to decline any proposal packages that include plagiarism and false claims.
Pursuant to NASA policy, any company representative who observes crime, fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement or receives an allegation of crime, fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement from a Federal employee, contractor, grantee, grantee employee, or any other source will report such observation or allegation to the OIG. NASA contractor employees and other individuals are also encouraged to report crime, fraud, waste, and mismanagement in NASA's programs to the OIG. The OIG offers several ways to report a complaint:
NASA OIG Hotline: 1-800-424-9183 (TDD: 1-800-535-8134)
NASA OIG Cyber Hotline: https://oig.nasa.gov/cyberhotline.html
Or by mail:
NASA Office of Inspector General
P.O. Box 23089
L'Enfant Plaza Station
Washington, DC 20026
1.13 NASA Procurement Ombudsman Program
The NASA Procurement Ombudsman Program is available under this solicitation as a procedure for addressing concerns and disagreements concerning the terms of the solicitation, the processes used for evaluation of complete proposal packages, or any other aspect of the SBIR procurement. The clause at NASA Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Supplement (NFS) 1852.215-84 (“Ombudsman”) is incorporated into this solicitation.
The cognizant ombudsman is:
Jason Detko, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Procurement
Office of Procurement
Washington, DC 20546-0001
Telephone: 202-358-4483, Fax: 202-358-3082
Offerors are advised that, in accordance with NFS 1852.215-84, the ombudsman does not participate in any way with the evaluation of complete proposal packages, the source selection process, or the adjudication of formal contract disputes. Therefore, before consulting with the ombudsman, Offerors must first address their concerns, issues, disagreements, and/or recommendations to the Contracting Officer for resolution. Offerors are further advised that the process set forth in this solicitation provision (and described at NFS 1852.215-84) does not augment their right to file a bid protest or otherwise toll or elongate the period in which to timely file such a protest.
1.14 Questions About This Solicitation and Means of Contacting NASA SBIR Program
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 package instructions and administrative matters will be addressed. The cutoff date and time for receipt of procurement-related questions for this SBIR Ignite solicitation is Thursday, August 25, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Offerors that have questions requesting clarification of proposal package instructions and administrative matters should refer to the NASA SBIR/STTR website or contact the NASA SBIR/STTR helpdesk.
- NASA SBIR/STTR website: https://sbir.nasa.gov/
- Help Desk: The NASA SBIR/STTR Help Desk can answer any questions regarding clarification of proposal package instructions and any administrative matters. The Help Desk may be contacted by:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.
A comprehensive list of definitions related to the programs is available at https://sbir.nasa.gov/content/nasa-sbirsttr-program-definitions. These definitions include those from the combined SBIR/STTR policy directives as well as terms specific to NASA. Offerors are strongly encouraged to review these prior to submitting a complete proposal package.