ATDC's Connie Casteel offers solutions for funding research

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“It takes more than ideas to be successful,” said Advanced Technology Development Center’s (ATDC) Connie Casteel at her Oct. 28 Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute Brown Bag Seminar. “To be successful, you have to have a product – something that someone wants and something people will pay for.”

The question is, how do you get the product out the door? According to Casteel, one way is to participate in the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Castell manages the SBIR/STTR program for ATDC. The federally funded SBIR/STTR programs are potential sources for funding research that enable small companies to compete for and conduct scientific/technical research with the potential of commercialization. The only caveat being that the research should lead to a commercial product for the company.

These programs were established in the late 1970s/early 1980s as research began to show that large companies were no longer the dominant job producers. When job creation shifted to small companies, the Federal government wanted to establish programs to help the development of new companies. The program undergoes reauthorization from Congress every seven years, and last year the programs received reauthorization. Some agencies capped awards at $1 million at this time.

Government agencies that currently participate in SBIR/STTR include:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense*
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Energy*
  • Department of Transportation
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration*
  • National Institutes of Health*
  • National Science Foundation*
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture

Most programs have $100 million in the budget for SBIR. Those marked with asterisks have $500 million in the budget for SBIR and STTR. Each agency and sub-agency has its own criteria for awards, and some offer contract work while others offer grants.

“Be aware of the difference, and know the agency and its interests,” said Casteel. “That is key. No two agencies are alike. No two SBIR/STTR agency programs are alike.”

To understand their interests, Casteel recommends studying the various agencies’ issue solicitations. She noted that some agencies request proposals one time a year, while others have multiple requests throughout the year. Typically, she explained, you have 30-90 days to prepare the proposal, but it is important to note that these agencies do not accept unsolicited proposals.

Generally speaking there are three phases related to SBIR/STTR awards. Phase One is the proof of concept/feasibility portion, which takes 6-9 months for SBIR and 12 months for STTR. Phase II in both programs takes approximately 2 years and this is the phase in which the award recipient conducts research and development toward prototype and scale-up. Both programs have funds for the first two phases. However, there are no SBIR/STTR funds available for Phase III, or the commercialization phase.

To qualify for SBIR/STTR awards, a company must meet the following qualifications:

  • A for-profit conducting research in a topic area of interest to an agency
  • Less than 500 employees (including affiliates)
  • At least 51 percent owned and independently operated by individuals (defined as U.S. citizens or U.S. resident aliens) or 51 percent owned and controlled by another (one) business that is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals
  • Located in the United States (or in Georgia for ATDC’s services)
  • The principal investigator’s primary employment must be with a small business full time at the time of the aware and during the project

These programs can be beneficial to manufacturing, especially since the primary focus is to produce a product. “SBIR/STTR is more than a research project,” said Casteel. “You must demonstrate you have a plan to actually get the innovation produced and to market if you are successful in your research.”

For more information on ATDC’s SBIR/STTR, please visit or contact Connie Casteel at Casteel also offers updates on various agency RFPs via twitter: @CCasteel2.

Casteel’s presentation was part of the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute’s weekly Brown Bag Seminar Series. The seminars take place each Monday between noon and 1 p.m. in the Manufacturing Research Building, Room 114. Students and faculty are invited and are welcome to bring their lunch to the meeting. If you have questions or you want to be added to the reminder list for these events, please contact Tina Guldberg at


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