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Award support/performance period

For Phase I awards, the award support/performance period is at the discretion of the submitting organization and can range from 6 to 12 months. For Phase II awards, the award support/performance period begins on the award’s effective date and usually ends 24 months later.


The process of developing markets and producing and delivering products or services for sale (whether by the originating party or by others). We use the term to include government and non-government markets.


A person who contributes to a company’s research (as described in their proposal) and who isn’t an employee of that company. Consultants can be paid or unpaid. More information on how to distinguish between consultants and employees can be found here:

Cooperative research and development

In the context of the STTR program, cooperative research and development is that conducted jointly by a small business and a research institution. As measured by the budget, the small business must perform at least 40 percent of the research, and the research institution must perform at least 30 percent.


Systematically applying knowledge to produce useful materials, devices, and systems or methods. Development may include designing, developing, and improving prototypes and processes to meet specific requirements.

Effective date

An award’s effective date, which appears in the body of the award letter, is the date on or after which proposed work is expected to begin. The effective date is different from the award date, which indicates when the award was made administratively and which appears in the upper right-hand corner of the award letter. At NSF, the effective date and the award date usually occur within 1-2 weeks of each other.

Equivalent proposal

An equivalent proposal is one that contains a description of work that completely overlaps (matches) the work described in another proposal.

Expiration date

For Phase I awards, the expiration date is the last day of the performance period. For Phase II awards, the expiration date is the last day of the award support period, which is usually 24 months long.

Funding Agreement

As used in this solicitation, the funding agreement is a Grant – a legal instrument of financial assistance between NSF and an awardee, consistent with 31 USC 6302-6305 and as noted in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies Guide (PAPPG) Introduction, Section D (“Definitions & NSF-Grantee Relationships”).

Joint venture

A joint venture is an association of people or business concerns who, either by express or implied contract, are working together to execute a single business venture for joint profit. These people or concerns may combine their efforts, skills, property, money, or knowledge, but only on a temporary basis.

A joint venture has the capability to control its own management, has its own Employer Identification Number as assigned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and is eligible under the SBIR Program, provided that it qualifies as a small business concern as defined in this glossary.

Non-Dilutive Funding

Financing that does not involve equity, debt, or other elements of the business ownership structure.

Overlapping proposals

An overlapping proposal is one that contains a description of work that overlaps (matches) the work described in another proposal.

Permanent equipment

Equipment is defined as a piece of non-expendable, tangible personal property that has a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per unit. Individual companies may choose capitalization thresholds of less than $5,000.

Place of performance

Place of performance is a term that describes where awardees conduct the work outlined in their proposals. Phase I and Phase II awardees must perform all of their research in the United States, which includes:

  • The 50 states
  • The territories and possessions of the U.S. federal government
  • The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
  • The District of Columbia
  • The Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • The Federated States of Micronesia
  • The Republic of Palau

Principal investigator

The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 42, Part 52, defines a Principal Investigator as “the single individual designated by the grantee in a grant application who is responsible for the scientific and technical direction of the project.” Many awardees like to think of Principal Investigator (PI) as a project’s technical lead. Companies that wish to change their PIs must get approval from the NSF.


A proposer is the organization (company or small business) seeking SBIR/STTR funding.

Research and Development (R&D):

Broadly defined in 2 CFR § 200.1, but specified for the NSF SBIR/STTR program as follows:

  • The application of creative, original and potentially transformative concepts to systematically study, create, adapt, or manipulate the structure and behavior of the natural or man-made worlds.
  • The use of the scientific method to propose well-reasoned, well-organized activities based on sound theory, computation, measurement, observation, experiment, or modeling.
  • The demonstration of a well-qualified individual, team, or organization ready to deploy novel methods of creating, acquiring, processing, manipulating, storing, or disseminating data or metadata.
  • The novel integration of new theories, analysis, data, or methods regarding cognition, heuristics, and related phenomena, which can be supported by scientific rationale.

Research institution

Within the context of the SBIR/STTR program, research institutions include:

  • Nonprofit universities
  • Nonprofit research institutions as defined in section 4(5) of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980
  • Contractor-operated, federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs), as identified by the National Science Foundation in accordance with the government-wide Federal Acquisition Regulation issued in accordance with section 35(c) (1) of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act (or any successor legislation thereto)
  • Federal laboratories

Research institution investigator

The single person, designated by the research institution, who is responsible for the scientific and technical direction of the partner research institution involved in a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) project.


As defined by the SBA SBIR/STTR Policy Directive, SBIR/STTR Data is all Data developed or generated in the performance of an SBIR or STTR award, including Technical Data and Computer Software developed or generated in the performance of an SBIR or STTR award. The term does not include information incidental to contract or grant administration, such as financial, administrative, cost or pricing or management information.

SBIR/STTR Data Rights

The Federal Government may, use, modify, reproduce, perform, display, release, or disclose SBIR/STTR Data that are Technical Data within the Government; however, the Government shall not use, release, or disclose the data for procurement, manufacturing, or commercial purposes; or release or disclose the SBIR/STTR Data outside the Government except as permitted by paragraph 10(B) of the SBIR/STTR Policy Directive’s Data Rights Clause or by written permission of the Awardee.

Small business concern (SBC)

A business concern that, at the time of the Phase I or Phase II award, meets the following criteria:

  • Is organized for profit.
  • Is located in the United States or makes a significant contribution to the U.S. economy through payment of taxes or use of American products, materials, or labor.
  • Is in the legal form of an individual proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, corporation, joint venture, association, trust or cooperative. If the business is a joint venture, it can have no more than 49 percent participation by foreign business entities.
  • Is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more people who are U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens.
  • Have no more than 500 employees (including affiliates).

Socially and economically disadvantaged individual

A member of any of the following groups: Black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans, other groups designated from time to time by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to be socially disadvantaged, and 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). For more information on this definition, contact the SBA.

Socially and economically disadvantaged small business

A socially and economically disadvantaged small business concern is one that is at least 51 percent owned and managed by one or more socially and economically disadvantaged people (who also control and the day-to-day operations). In this context, control means making policy decisions. Operate means being actively involved in day-to-day management.

Subaward (contract or subcontract)

Any agreement that a small business concern makes with another organization to procure supplies or services needed to complete work outlined in the funding agreement.

Technical data

Data developed by the awardee as they’re completing the work outlined in their proposal and funded by their award. Technical data could include information relating to an invention, a manufacturing process, or software developed under the award.

Technical Innovation

Technical innovation indicates that the new product or service is differentiated from current products or services; that is, the new technology holds the potential to result in a product or service with a substantial and durable advantage over competing solutions on the market. It also generally provides a barrier to entry for competitors. This means that if the new product, service, or solution is successfully realized and brought to the market, it would be difficult for a well-qualified, competing firm to reverse-engineer or otherwise neutralize the competitive advantage generated by leveraging fundamental science or engineering research techniques.

Technical Risk

Technical risk assumes that the possibility of technical failure exists for an envisioned product, service, or solution to be successfully developed. This risk is present even to those suitably skilled in the art of the component, subsystem, method, technique, tool, or algorithm in question.

Third-party investor

A third-party investor may include:

  • Another company
  • A venture capital firm
  • An individual angel investor
  • Federal (non-SBIR), state, or local government
  • Any combinations of the above. This definition does not include owners of the small business, their family members, and/or affiliates of the small business, as defined in Title 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), Section 121.103. (Reference:

Women-owned small business

A small business concern that is at least 51 percent owned by a woman or women. In the case of any publicly owned business, it must have at least 51 percent of its stock owned by women, who also control and operate it. In this context, control means exercising the power to make policy decisions. Operate means being actively involved in the day-to-day management of the organization.