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Small Business Innovation Research

The SBIR-program (Small Business Innovation Research) subsidises innovation projects (products, processes and services) aimed to solve social issues. With SBIR, the Dutch government challenges private businesses to submit project proposals. Entrepreneurs with the best project proposals receive an order for carrying out a feasibility study (phase 1). The most successful feasibility studies are commissioned to actually develop the product, process or service (phase 2). Finally, it’s possible to get support for marketing the innovation (phase 3). Note that the last phase is not financed by the government.

How does it work?

Calls for SBIR are made public by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). RVO informs entrepreneurs and guides the process. Entrepreneurs with relevant ideas submit a tender within the tender period. The best proposals are commissioned for a feasibility study. The most promising feasibility studies receive a follow-up assignment to develop and demonstrate innovations.

SBIR calls focus on societal challenges. To this end current themes include:

  • Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bio-economy.
  • Secure, safe, clean and efficient energy supply.
  • Cyber ​​security for a secure and open cyber domain.

Every SBIR call has a separate assessment committee. Tenders are assessed on the following criteria:

  • Impact;
  • Technological feasibility;
  • Economic perspective;
  • Price of the quotation.

Phase 1

After approval, entrepreneurs carry out the feasibility study for their innovation. This is done within the agreed period and for the agreed quotation. In this phase it’s possible to collaborate with a knowledge institution and/ or other companies. Parts of the project can also be outsourced, as long as the assignment does not exceed the amount specified in the SBIR call, or the quotation.

Phase 2

Feasible ideas from phase 1 enter the competition for phase 2. If the results on the assessment criteria are favourable, it’s possible to receive an order for the development of the innovation. Entrepreneurs carry out the research and development process within the agreed period and quotation. The result of phase 2 is a tested prototype, limited zero series or pilot project of the product, process or service. The government is committed to creating the right framework conditions for the success of the project. This focuses on matchmaking or solving non-technical bottlenecks, including regulations and certification.

Phase 3

In phase 3 of the SBIR program, the government can establish itself as a major innovation-oriented buyer to be the first to purchase the new technology. This gives entrepreneurs an excellent opportunity to market their own development.

Under certain conditions, intellectual property rights remain with the entrepreneur. Finally, the minister can decide to disclose the developed knowledge as soon as it is in the public interest.


The program offers good opportunities for entrepreneurs to successfully market the products, processes and services that they develop within the program:

  • The SBIR tender gives entrepreneurs direction and offers new markets in the short term;
  • The government endeavours to create preconditions for the success of the project;
  • SBIR supports the acquisition of financing for the high-risk phases of an innovation;
  • The scheme opens up opportunities for collaboration with other companies and knowledge institutions;
  • SBIR takes smaller entrepreneurs into account through short lead times and project phases.

You can only submit for proposals for phase 1. Entry into a later program component (phase 2 or 3) is not possible. Currently, no tenders for phase 1 have been opened. We publish information about new, current tenders on our website.

Next steps

Ugoo supports entrepreneurs to successfully use SBIR. Do not hesitate to contact a Ugoo consultant to pitch your possible SBIR project.