About America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF
We focus on transforming scientific and engineering discoveries into products and services with commercial and societal impact. The deep technologies we fund show promise but their success hasn’t yet been validated. And, each year, we award $200+ million in research and development (R&D) funding to about 400 startups across the United States. America’s Seed Fund is a program within the National Science Foundation and housed within the Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships.
Our goals are to foster innovation and help create businesses and jobs in all areas of the United States, and small businesses funded by our program have since gone on to tremendous success, changing industries, and helping people and the planet.
We are a congressionally mandated program — Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR).
What We Do
We fund startups to create the next game-changing technologies — often based on fundamental science or engineering — in need of research and development to create new products, services, and other scalable solutions. The project we fund must have the potential to positively benefit society and to lead to significant outcomes in the commercial market. Most of the startups we fund have fewer than five employees, are recently formed and haven't received funding from the government before.
Check out our portfolio to get a sense of our founders’ work.
Funding for R&D with founder-friendly terms
Up to $2M / 36+ monthsReceive up to $275,000 in non-dilutive funding for research and development (R&D) to build your prototype or proof-of-concept over six to 12 months. During this period, your company will receive guidance from NSF program directors who are seasoned entrepreneurs and technologists. After you complete your Phase I award, you’re welcome to apply for Phase II, which can be up to $1,000,000 over the course of 24 months. During that second award, you can apply for supplements that may add up to more than $500,000.
Feedback from expertsEvery proposal is evaluated by a group of technical and commercial experts, who provide detailed feedback to all reviewed applications; even companies that don’t receive awards get valuable, actionable feedback.
NSF’s Merit Review ProcessAn NSF award is more than just funding. Being selected by experts out of thousands of applicants signals that your technology and expertise have strong technical and commercial merit with potential for broad impact.
0% equityOur awards are grants and cooperative agreements. You retain full ownership over your company and intellectual property. And because our awards aren’t loans, there’s nothing to pay back.
Major societal impactWe don’t have the same financial incentives as most investors, so we can make impact investments that may potentially help billions of people and take longer to provide a financial return. Our goal is to invest in a better future for our shareholders: the American public.
Minimal standard reportingWe provide templates for reporting monthly progress and financials. No need to waste time crafting decks and building spreadsheets — we help you focus on building your product or service instead.
Virtual coaching from program staffOur program directors, who have deep technical expertise and entrepreneurial experience, have been in your shoes. And we support startups in all locations. You don’t need to relocate to gain access to our funding.
Freedom to operateWe’re not interested in driving the direction of your company; in fact, our goal is to align your vision with our funding. You can use your funding on employees’ salaries and wages, fringe benefits, materials and supplies, and other R&D costs (though intellectual property, marketing and business development costs aren’t covered).
Options for venture capital companiesIf your company is majority owned by venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, or private-equity firms, you’re not eligible to apply for funding, although joint ventures and partnerships are eligible. Read more about proposal eligibility in our Eligibility Guide.
The U.S. National Science Foundation is a federal agency that supports research and education across all fields of science and engineering, currently with an $8.8 billion budget.
Through the merit review process, NSF funds the most innovative ideas in science and engineering. Notable NSF-supported advances include LASIK eye surgery, Doppler radar, the Internet, web browsers, bar codes, magnetic resonance imaging, inkjet printers, computer-aided design systems, tissue engineering, and other technology-based innovations that spur economic activity and improve the quality of life for all Americans.