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Small Business Innovation Research ("SBIR") and Small Business Technology Transfer ("STTR") are two types of federal award mechanisms that allow start-up and small companies to compete for federal funding. Their goal is to engage these entities in federally sponsored research and development and accelerate the transfer of scientific discovery and innovation to the general public.

Each type of award comes with its own eligibility requirements for the applicant (the small business/company), Principal Investigator (PI), and the collaborating research institution (Purdue). Specific requirements for each program are detailed in the Request for Proposal (RFP) and the STTR/SBIR websites of the awarding agency (e.g., NSF STTR/SBIR guidance can be found at; NIH guidance is at

  • For STTR projects, the small company must partner/collaborate with Purdue (or another research institution); no such requirement exists for SBIR projects.
  • For SBIR projects, and some STTR projects (e.g., for STTRs from NSF), the PI at the company must be primarily employed at the company (effort for the company > 50%), unless a waiver is granted by the awarding agency.

Purdue entrepreneurs applying for this type of funding on behalf of outside companies may find it useful to review the following principles/guidance based on STTR/SBIR award mechanism specific restrictions, and the university policies on conflict of commitment and reportable outside activities (, and individual financial conflicts of interest (

Issues to consider:

  • As a direct consequence of the primary employment requirement for SBIR projects and some NSF STTR projects (i.e., more than 50% employment at the company), full time Purdue faculty members (and other employees) cannot serve as PIs at the company/small business, unless they have a reduced university appointment. The total sum of dedicated Time Effort (TE) percentages, the university TE plus the outside entity(ies) TE, should not exceed the maximum Full Time Effort of 1.0.
  • Faculty and other employees who plan to serve as the PIs at the company on SBIR projects and NSF STTR projects must reduce their employment at the university or take a leave of absence/research leave if they plan to serve as PIs at the company.
  • Faculty and other employees may serve as consultants for the company on both SBIR and STTR projects, within the limits imposed by their approved Reportable Outside Activity with the company.
  • Purdue faculty may serve as PIs at Purdue (when the projects are fully costed, if allowed by the federal funding agencies).
  • Purdue will consider exemptions from project full costing requirements, when imposed by the federal funding agency, on a case by case basis (depending on faculty effort and time commitment to the project).
  • University personnel and resources should not support the company application or provide any pre- or post-award support; this includes the University Sponsored Programs Services. The involvement of the University in such activities occurs only to the extent that Purdue is an intended sub-recipient/collaborator in the research, in which case typical involvement of Purdue researchers and research administration is permissible (e.g., providing letters of intent, executing sub-agreements, etc. on behalf of Purdue with respect to the project).
  • In most cases, the PI at the company may not serve as a PI on the Purdue portion of the research project, unless a) there is a compelling reason to do so, and b) the PI has an executed Conflict of Interest Management Plan for the company.
  • There must be a clear statement of work for the research project/subcontract from the company to Purdue, that will identify which facilities, resources, and personnel/Investigators will be involved in the project.

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