Balancing Entrepreneurship and COI: SBIR and STTR


The Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) are two programs that can provide partnerships between the University and a Small Business. Recently, the Duke Office of Scientific Integrity hosted a Research Town Hall, “Balancing Entrepreneurship and COI: SBIR and STTR Funding Mechanisms.” During the town hall, our panelists answered questions and provided key information to an estimated 120 attendees. Through a combination of slides, case studies and panel discussion, a few key themes emerged as summarized below. The full session slides are also available here for download. 

Key Differences between SBIR and STTR Programs

Considerations SBIR STTR
Overall PI

PI must be at least 51% employed by the company and have at least 10% of effort at the time of award and for the duration of the award. This means Duke faculty are not eligible to be PI.

PI allowed to come from small business or non-profit research institution. PI must have at least 10% effort on the award but that effort can be on the company side OR the non-profit research institution side, NOT BOTH.
Amounts and deadlines

Phase 1  ~ 6 months

Phase II awards ~up to 2 years

Phase 1 ~ up to 1 year

Phase 2 ~ up to 2 years
Is collaboration required? Allowed but not required Requires collaboration with a non-profit research institution.
Work distribution No more than 33% of the total effort may be performed at a non-profit research institution in Phase I. In Phase II, the total is 50%. At least 40% at company and at least 30 % at non-profit research institution in the form of a sub-contract.


Eligibility is assessed at the time of award, not at the time of application. Therefore, a company may submit an application even if they do not meet all the eligibility requirements at the time of submission. You should, however, anticipate changes when the award is given.

Other eligibility requirements for the Small Business applying for these funding opportunities:

  • For-Profit U.S. small business <500 employees.
  • Business must be located in the U.S. and all money received must be spent in the U.S.
  • Work performed by the small business must be in company-controlled facilities that are suitable for the work described and must be owned, rented or leased by the company.
  • The business must be majority owned by one or more individuals who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Key Considerations for Duke Applicants

  • Duke’s resources may only be used to carry out the Duke University portion of the project.
  • For STTR, it is possible for the Duke faculty member to be the PI on the company side. If Duke is a subcontractee, the University PI would need to be someone who is un-conflicted and has no relationship with the company and no reporting relationship with the PI on the company side.
  •  If a faculty member has ownership interest in or >$50 K financial relationship with the company, they cannot serve as PI on the Duke sub-contract without prior approval from DOSI-COI for SOM/SON or ORS for Campus faculty.
  • Company cannot change documents submitted by Duke University prior to submission to the federal agency without Duke approval.
  • A copy of the full application will be required prior to entering into a sub-contract with Duke.

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