The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) was established to find innovative solutions to issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and communities.
The agency is structured to direct federal funding effectively to programs that address key national and global challenges. NIFA administers the USDA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, under which qualified, established small businesses with proposals for high quality, advanced research are eligible for competitive awards. Their research must relate to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that may lead to significant public benefit through commercialization.
USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority. Research is only successful if the information and technologies developed are transferred to those who need it. Collaboration with outside organizations, whether public or private, allows ARS scientists to obtain expertise, proprietary products, and information that would not otherwise be available to them.
To encourage more partnerships between ARS and small businesses, a formal collaboration between NIFA SBIR and ARS began in 2014 as a formal collaboration known as SBIR-TT. ARS and NIFA work with potential SBIR applicants to connect them with ARS researchers and technologies for partnerships and licensing opportunities.
The first step in setting up the SBIR-TT program involved ARS and NIFA working together to expand the federal USDA SBIR funds exemption. The program allows a small business to use a portion of USDA SBIR-awarded grant money to fund a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with an ARS lab. Next, ARS developed a CRADA template for SBIR applicants. A small company can sign a CRADA that contains language stating that the start of the CRADA project is contingent upon the company receiving USDA SBIR funds. If the company is awarded a USDA SBIR grant, the company uses a small portion of that money to fund the CRADA and the project begins.
The SBIR-TT program has been very successful. During the first year of the program in 2015, six SBIR proposals were submitted and five were funded; in 2016, eleven SBIR proposals were submitted and nine funded; and in 2017, eight SBIR proposals were submitted and six were funded. Over the three years, an average of 77 percent of the SBIR-TT proposals were funded, while the average funding rate was approximately 16 percent.
Contact: Mojdeh Bahar, (301) 504-6905, [email protected]