Sponsored Programs and Research Services

SBIR-STTR Guidance

To promote innovation and research, Cleveland State University (CSU) supports collaborations with small business concerns (SBCs), particularly through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. An SBC is a company with 500 or fewer employees with at least 51% ownership by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. SBIR and STTR proposals must be submitted by an SBC; the University is not permitted to apply for SBIR or STTR grants. The University does, however, encourage faculty collaborations with SBCs and thus receives SBIR and STTR funds through subawards. Also, startup companies formed by University faculty can seek SBIR and STTR funding, either with or without University involvement. Some of the differences between the two programs are as follows.




Who can apply?

A for-profit small business concern (SBC) operating in the U.S.

Who can be Principal Investigator (PI)?

The PI must be primarily employed (at least 51% of his/her time) by the SBC.

The PI can be employed by either the SBC or the University. If employed by the University, the PI cannot have a management role in the SBC.

Phase I Awards

Phase I awards typically are for periods up to six months. During Phase I, a maximum of 33% of the grant may be subcontracted to a university.

Phase I awards typically are for periods up to one year. Between 30% and 60% of the grant must be subcontracted to a university.

Phase II Awards

Phase II awards typically are for periods up to two years. During Phase II, a maximum of 50% of the grant may be subcontracted to a university.

Phase II awards typically are for periods up to two years. Between 30% and 60% of the grant must be subcontracted to a university.


The SBIR program encourages, but does not require, the SBC to partner with a research institution.

The STTR program requires research partners at universities with a formal, collaborative relationship with the SBC.

Purpose of Guidance

This guide is to assist faculty in their pursuit of SBIR and STTR grant support. Faculty participation in SBIR and STTR projects through a small business concern has the potential to create a conflict of interest for the faculty member, particularly if the faculty member is a founder or a principal of the SBC. Potential conflicts include the use of CSU labs or resources in ways that benefit the company without proper compensation to CSU, use of CSU’s non-profit status in a way that advantages a for-profit company, or conflict of interest in the research itself by favoring the advancement of the company over the advancement of science.

Faculty who intend to perform work related to an SBIR or STTR grant or who wish to request a leave of absence in order to serve as the primary PI for a SBIR grant must consult with their chair/director and dean’s office regarding outside employment first, as described with Article 22.1.C of the AAUP Contract and CSU Personnel Policy 3344-11-11 sections D and F. Dean’s approval of the purpose of the leave of absence and its duration must be clearly documented for each academic year that leave is requested, and CSU Human Resources must confirm that the leave constitutes less than majority employment by CSU during the covered period. In addition, the faculty member must remain in compliance with the relevant funding agency’s SBIR regulations regarding primary employment by the Small Business Concern for the duration of the project.

Clear distinctions must be defined between activities performed at the University and activities performed at the SBC location, and between activities performed by the SBC and activities performed by the University. Faculty should contact the Office of Research if a SBC in which they have a financial/ownership interest is expected to apply for SBIR funding and the faculty member expects to be engaged in that research effort.

PI Requirements
  • Under the SBIR program, the SBC must be the primary employer of the PI at the time of the award and for the duration of the award. Therefore, no faculty member can hold a full-time appointment at the University and concurrently serve as an SBIR PI unless he/she takes a full or partial leave of absence from the University during the SBIR grant.
  • Under the STTR program, either the SBC or the University can be the primary employer of the PI.
  • In case the University employee is the primary PI on an STTR proposal (sometimes called the lead PI or contact PI), there must also be a PI at the SBC who represents the SBC’s portion of the proposal.
  • The University employee cannot serve as both the SBC PI and the University PI.
  • The University PI must be a full-time faculty member.
  • The University requires a formal, collaborative relationship with the SBC before the submission of an SBIR or STTR proposal.
  • The University’s Office of Sponsored Programs and Research Services (SPRS) cannot help the faculty member with any aspect of the SBC’s portion of the grant.
  • The University PI must submit the entire proposal to SPRS to permit the appropriate reviews prior to proposal submission to the funding agency.
  • The University PI is responsible for disclosing financial interests in accordance with the University’s Conflict of Interest Policy and for submitting a Conflict of Interest Disclosure Form along with the proposal submission.
  • A signed intellectual property agreement (IP Agreement) between the SBC and the University may need to be in place before the SBC can submit its application, which will outline the rights to the research results and IP developed under the collaboration. The Technology Transfer Office (TTO) will coordinate these agreements and decide whether one is needed on a case-by-case basis at the time of proposal preparation.
  • University personnel compensated under an SBIR / STTR subcontract cannot receive any direct compensation from the SBC for the same grant.
  • SBC personnel compensated under an SBIR / STTR subcontract cannot receive any University subaward funds for the same grant.
  • The SBC portion of the research cannot be conducted on University-owned property unless a suitable facility use agreement or services agreement is executed between the University and the SBC; for example, see https://www.csuohio.edu/engineering/about-us/equipment-facilities. Approval of such facility use or services agreement is required from the Department Chair, College Dean, and Vice President for Research. Approval will be influenced by factors such as whether the request diverts resources to the SBC at the expense of the University, students, staff, or faculty.
  • The SBC portion of the grant may not involve any University employees unless they are directly paid by the SBC and follow HR’s policy regarding consulting and extramural employment. For example, University staff are not allowed to handle purchases, reimbursements, or travel arrangements on behalf of the SBC portion of the grant.
  • All University work that involves University facilities, equipment, employees, or students must be performed under a fully executed sponsored research agreement that clearly delineates the scope of work and deliverables to the SBC. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA), memorandum of understanding (MOU), and intellectual property (IP) agreement may also be necessary. These decisions will be made by the Office of Research on a case-by-case basis.
  • University employees are required to spend at least 80% of their work time on University-related activities, with a maximum of 20% of their time allowed for outside employment / consulting.
  • These guidelines apply to all University employees, regardless of whether they have a nine-month or twelve-month appointment at the University.

Specific SBIR / STTR solicitations from specific federal agencies may include restrictions or requirements that are more stringent than the guidelines provided here. In that case, the more stringent guidelines must take precedence. Faculty are encouraged to visit individual federal agency web sites for further details about agency-specify SBIR / STTR programs.

For more information, see: