SBIR/STTR Funding & IP Rights

SBIR and STTR are federally funded programs that offer opportunities for small businesses to partner with research institutions like the U of M. The Venture Center has teamed up with the Minnesota SBIR/STTR Assistance Office (MNSBIR) to provide help in identifying these grant opportunities and provide guidance on how to apply. 

Companies that partner with U of M researchers on SBIR and STTR grants receive a substantially reduced indirect (F&A) rate. For Phase I grants that are awarded to the company and subawarded to the U of M, the company only pays a 10 percent F&A rate for the portion provided to the U. The company is expected to pay the full F&A rate for Phase II grants and beyond.


The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program lets small businesses engage in federally sponsored research to explore its technological potential and profit from commercializing new technologies.

The program aims to:

  • Stimulate technological innovation
  • Meet federal research and development needs
  • Foster participation in innovation and entrepreneurship by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
  • Increase private-sector commercialization of innovations from federal research and development funding


The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program supports a partnership of ideas and technologies between innovative small businesses and research institutions.

The program requires a small business to formally collaborate with a research institution like the U of M in Phase I (feasibility and proof of concept) and Phase II (research and development), allowing it to bridge the gap between conducting basic science and commercializing new discoveries. More than $2 billion is available each year for small businesses in a wide variety of technology areas.

The program aims to:

  • Stimulate technological innovation
  • Foster technology transfer through cooperative research and development between small businesses and research institutions
  • Increase private sector commercialization of innovations derived from federal R&D

Determining Intellectual Property (IP)

The small business receiving the SBIR or STTR award may subaward a portion of the funding to an academic institution such as the University of Minnesota. The funding provided to the University via the subaward is federal funding, and the intellectual property (IP) rights are managed as if the federal funding was provided directly to the University.  Ownership of intellectual property is governed by US law, specifically the Bayh-Dole Act, which states that ownership is determined by authorship or inventorship. 

The small business may negotiate a license to the IP developed during the project.  The SBIR or STTR does not give the small business exclusive commercial rights to use project IP developed solely or jointly by the University.

Subawards are allowed as part of SBIR/STTR Phase I or Phase II projects.  Prior to submission, the subaward budget must be routed to Sponsored Projects Administration for their actions before returning the subaward budget to the startup.