USDA Seeks Small Business Research Proposals

July 27th, 2016 by Rebecca Todd

Innovative entrepreneurs with ideas for research-based products or services with commercial potential are encouraged to explore funding opportunities within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Small Business Innovation Research program.

The USDA’s program, administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, issued its FY17 Request for Applications. Over $8.3 million is available to small businesses that create advanced research and development projects offering innovative solutions for American agriculture. 

All USDA SBIR applicants start at Phase I in the program, which involves feasibility research. The maximum award size for Phase I grants is $100,000 for a 6-8 month project performance period. After successfully completing Phase I projects, small businesses can compete for Phase II research and development funding. Phase II awards can each be a maximum of $600,000  for 24-month project performance periods. Phase I applications are due Oct. 6.

Research topics of interest that are detailed in Section 8.0 of the full RFA include:

  • Forests and Related Resources
  • Plant Production and Protection – Biology
  • Animal Production and Protection
  • Air, Water, and Soils
  • Food Science and Nutrition
  • Rural and Community Development
  • Aquaculture
  • Biofuels and Biobased Products
  • Small and Mid-Sized Farms
  • Plant Production and Protection – Engineering

The Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center hosted a USDA-Agricultural Research Services webinar earlier this year. This webinar, available on YouTube, featured talks by Scott Dockum, USDA SBIR program coordinator, and Cathy Cohn, USDA ARS technology transfer liaison.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to conduct closed topic/prior award keyword searches on and review topic-specific award abstracts on the USDA SBIR program site. These preliminary searches will provide information about the agency’s historical interest in your topic area as well as details about related projects that have been selected for award. Instructions for conducting these searches on can be found here.

If closed topic/prior award searches indicate strong agency interest in your project idea and another company has not already received funding to perform this research, a recommended next step is to draft brief summaries (200 words) of Phase I project ideas to share with agency program contacts for feedback before drafting full proposal applications. Guidance for developing a concept paper summary, including a template can be found here.

Arkansas-based entrepreneurs interested in developing SBIR proposal applications that respond to USDA research topic areas are encouraged to contact Rebecca Norman for assistance at or 501.683.7700.

USDA SBIR Request for Applications Online Tutorials