A concept visualization of technology research and development, showing someone holding up a lightbulb with technology icons surrounding it.


Technological innovation can come from almost anywhere. The next big idea could begin in a basement or a Fortune 500 company. When it comes to systematically producing new and innovative technology, however, research and development is critical. In addition to R&D from private companies, the U.S. government funds a significant amount of technology research and development across the country.

In fact, most people don’t realize how much of the technology we use on a regular basis began as government-funded R&D. Before Google was created, its founders received $4.5 million from the National Science Foundation to research their algorithm, PageRank. Although it has changed over time, PageRank is still used by Google today. A 2014 report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation details more than 20 other major technologies that received research support from the government. These include GPS, MRIs, and even closed captioning.

Many of the most cutting-edge technology fields today benefit from government-funded R&D, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cyber security. By competing for government contracts, private companies can win opportunities to work on this groundbreaking technology research and development. It isn’t just huge corporations that get these contracts, either. There are several government programs specifically designed to invest in R&D using small businesses.

Entrust Solutions is a leading technology solutions provider for defense, federal, and commercial clients. From our offices in New Orleans—a city known for its entrepreneurial spirit—and Norfolk, we produce innovative technology in a variety of fields. Learn more about how small businesses like ours pursue government R&D contracts, and contact us to inquire about the technology research and development jobs Entrust provides in New Orleans, Norfolk, and beyond.

Government Funding for Small Businesses

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The U.S. government encourages small businesses to pursue and
win contracts in a variety of ways. Set-aside contracts, for example, are reserved for small businesses to eliminate competition from large companies. At Entrust, we recently won a $49M contract from the U.S. Navy that was a small business set-aside.

There are also many resources available to small businesses that help them compete for government funding. Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs) have been established across the nation to assist local businesses hoping to compete for government contracts. In 1985, the Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) was founded to create and fund even more PTACs through matching funds from state governments, local governments, and nonprofit organizations. There are also programs like Boots to Business (B2B), which offers education and training to veterans interested in starting a business.

Government-Funded Technology Research and Development

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When it comes to government-funded technology research and development opportunities for small businesses, the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) oversees two notable programs: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. Not only do these programs prioritize small businesses for government-funded R&D, but also they have also led to the creation of additional initiatives that support their applicants.

The Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program has the sole goal of growing the number of proposals and awards in the SBIR and STTR programs. FAST offers organizations a year of funding to support programs that can increase SBIR and STTR proposals and awards. With up to $125,000 of funding available per applicant and $3 million funding in total, FAST underlines the U.S. government’s dedication to bringing small businesses into the government technology research and development arena.

In addition, the Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) gives $3 million in awards of $50,000 each to various small business accelerators and incubators for the research and development of innovative technologies. In 2019, the GAFC narrowed its scope to accelerators and incubators that work with potential applicants to the SBIR and STTR programs. This move likewise demonstrates the government’s intentions to spur government-funded innovation from small businesses.

As a company that specializes in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cyber security, and other areas of high tech, we are always on the lookout for opportunities to compete and expand our team of experts in these fields. At Entrust Solutions, we take full advantage of our status as a small, veteran-owned business to compete for government contracts in innovative technology and R&D.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program

A concept visualization of technology research and development work, showing a person interacting with a digital globe, icons, and data.


When the Small Business Innovation Development Act went into effect in 1982, the
Small Business Innovation Research program was created. The SBIR program enables small U.S. businesses like Entrust to compete for federal research and development funding via contracts or grants. Specifically, the R&D projects awarded funding through the program must have the capacity to be commercialized. In addition, these projects are required to fulfill specific needs the government has for technology research and development.

There are a number of qualities a business must have in order to be eligible for the SBIR program. A business must be for-profit and employ 500 or fewer people to compete. In addition, these small businesses must be majority-owned and controlled by one or more U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens of the United States.

 

SBIR Funding and Participating Agencies

Any federal agency with more than $100 million budgeted for research and development is required to participate in the SBIR program that year. The government agencies currently participating in the program include:

  • The Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • The Department of Commerce – National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
  • The Department of Commerce – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • The Department of Defense (DOD)
  • The Department of Education (ED)
  • The Department of Energy (DOE)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • The Department of Transportation (DOT)
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF)

As of fiscal year 2017, participating agencies must devote at least 3.2% of their R&D budgets to the SBIR program. This results in more than $2 billion of funding available through SBIR each year. For many small businesses, the SBIR program offers a chance at substantial funding and exciting opportunities in the government technology research and development contracting sector.

 

The Three Phases of the SBIR Program

The SBIR program is conducted in three phases:

  1. In Phase I, the awardee receives up to $150,000 over 6 months to research the potential of the proposed technology. This includes its potential value, feasibility, and capacity for commercialization.
  2. In Phase II, the awardee receives up to $1 million over 2 years to continue the project and conduct its research and development. The amount awarded is based on the findings of Phase I.
  3. In Phase III, the awardee does not receive any SBIR funding. If possible, this is the stage at which commercialization occurs.

 

The Benefits of the SBIR Program

Not only do awardees stand to benefit from SBIR funding and opportunities to perform innovative technology research and development work, but also they can directly profit from their work once it has been commercialized. In addition, the SBIR program encourages women as well as economically and socially disadvantaged individuals to compete, helping to level the playing field for a variety of small businesses.

This arrangement benefits the government as well. The SBIR program allows innovation to thrive by offering funding to businesses that likely wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to execute their ideas. Once the technology is commercialized, it can also invigorate our country’s economy.

The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program

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In 1992, Congress created the
Small Business Technology Transfer program. The STTR program helps small businesses and nonprofit research institutions compete for government-funded technology research and development opportunities.

The SBIR and STTR programs are similar in many ways. Both programs were designed to support technological and scientific innovation in the federal government and national economy. Both secure funding and create research and development opportunities exclusively for small businesses like Entrust. And both encourage small businesses to eventually commercialize the products or services that result from this government-funded R&D.

 

The Difference Between the STTR and SBIR Programs

The main way in which these two programs differ is that the STTR program requires small businesses to partner with a nonprofit research institution. Only Federally Funded R&D Centers (FFRDCs), nonprofit universities and colleges, nonprofit research organizations, and nonprofit scientific organizations qualify as research institutions in the STTR program.

In addition, there are several eligibility requirements that research institutions must meet in order to participate. They must be a nonprofit, located in the U.S., and owned and operated solely for educational or scientific objectives.

The small business acts as the prime contractor, but it must subcontract part of the award to a research institution. Small businesses are required to execute at least 40% of the STTR research, and research institutions are required to execute at least 30% of this work.

 

STTR Funding and Participating Agencies

The STTR program collects funding in a similar manner to the SBIR program. In the STTR program, the budget requirement is higher—$1 billion instead of $100 million. Only agencies whose R&D budgets surpass $1 billion must take part in the STTR program, leading to fewer participating organizations. These agencies are only required to allocate 0.45% of their R&D budget to STTR awards, as opposed to the 3.2% required by SBIR.

As of now, only the following federal agencies must participate in the STTR program, all of which must also participate in the SBIR program:

  • The Department of Defense (DOD)
  • The Department of Energy (DOE)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF)

 

The Three Phases of the STTR Program

The STTR program has three phases, which are similar to those of the SBIR program:

  1. In Phase I, the awardee receives up to $150,000 over 1 year (compared to 6 months in the SBIR program) to research the potential of the proposed technology. This includes its potential value, feasibility, and capacity for commercialization.
  2. In Phase II, the awardee receives up to $1 million over 2 years to continue the project and conduct its research and development. The amount awarded is based on the findings of Phase I.
  3. In Phase III, the awardee does not receive any SBIR funding. If possible, this is the stage at which commercialization occurs.

Small businesses are required to collaborate with nonprofit research institutions in the first two phases, but not the third.

 

The Benefits of the STTR Program

In addition to the benefits of the SBIR program, there are unique advantages to bringing small businesses and research institutions together in the STTR program. Small businesses excel at innovation and entrepreneurship. But they often lack the resources and stability to engage in research and development, which often carries a great cost and risk.

Meanwhile, research institutions possess valuable experience and specialization in R&D that can help support small businesses’ technology research and development efforts. Together, small businesses and research institutions can take advantage of government funding opportunities to produce the latest and greatest technologies.

New Orleans Technology Research and Development Jobs at Entrust

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Our company’s experts have a comprehensive knowledge of
government contracting, especially regarding technology research and development projects. Our experience, skills, and set-aside qualifications give us an exceptionally competitive edge for these opportunities.

Are you interested in working on innovative technology research and development in New Orleans? Entrust Solutions would like to speak with you! We are particularly interested in professionals who specialize in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cyber security.

To learn more about our job opportunities in New Orleans, Norfolk, and beyond, contact us online or give us a call at 504-308-1464 today.


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