Funding Programs: Fostering Commercialization of Nanotechnologies

In addition to grants, the Federal Government offers special programs designed to seed commercialization activity that facilitates economic growth. These programs support small business, universities, and other research institutions.


The Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) is a highly competitive program that encourages small business to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's R&D arena, high-tech innovation is stimulated and the United States builds entrepreneurial spirit to meet specific research and development needs.

The Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR) is an important small business program that expands funding opportunities in the Federal innovation R&D arena. Central to the program is expanding the public/private sector partnership to include joint venture opportunities for small business and the nation's premier nonprofit research institutions. Each year, five Federal departments and agencies are required by STTR to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for awards to small business/nonprofit research institution partnerships. Currently, the five Federal agencies participating in the STTR program are DOD, DOE, DHHS (NIH), NASA, and NSF.

Departments and agencies currently participating in the SBIR and/or the STTR program, each with their own SBIR/SRTR web sites, are the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Defense (DOD), Education (DoED), Energy (DOE), and Transportation (DOT); the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Air Force, Navy, and Army have their own SBIR/STTR sites.


The NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program focuses on increasing the competitiveness of the U.S. industrial base by bridging the productivity gap for manufacturers, identifying opportunities for growth, and encouraging technology deployment. MEP supports 59 centers in 392 locations in every state and in Puerto Rico. These centers provide manufacturers with an array of services that focus on growth, productivity, and efficiency. MEP centers are nonprofit university- or state-based organizations, with 1,600 specialists in business and manufacturing who provide direct assistance to customers throughout the United States.


The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) program focuses on the needs of weapon system programs for affordable, low-risk development and production. It provides the crucial link between technology invention and development, and industrial applications. It matures and validates emerging manufacturing technologies to support low-risk implementation in industry and in DOD facilities such as depots and shipyards. The program addresses production issues from system development through transition to production and sustainment. By identifying production issues early and providing timely solutions, the ManTech Program reduces risk and positively impacts system affordability by providing solutions to manufacturing problems before they occur.

National Cancer Institute Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer 

The NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer provides research and training opportunities relevant to nanotechnology and cancer. Many opportunities emphasize interdisciplinary research at the interface of the biological and physical sciences including, but not limited to, structural and computational biology, medical and bioinformatics, genomics and proteomics, tissue engineering, single molecule detection, nanotechnology, and imaging techniques.

National Science Foundation's GOALI, I/UCRC, PFI, and Innovation Corps (I-Corps)

NSF contributes to several translational innovation programs, including GOALI (Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry), I/UCRC (Industry & University Cooperative Research Centers), Innovation Corps I-CORPS program, and an umbrella program, PFI (Partnerships for Innovation), which includes two complementary subprograms: AIR (Accelerating Innovation Research) and BIC (Building Innovation Capacity). 


Special Resources for R&D

Search Engines

Tech-Net, sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, is an Internet-based database of information containing SBIR and STTR awards, ATP awards, and MEP centers. It is a free service for those seeking small business partners, small business contractors and subcontractors, leading-edge technology research partners (small businesses, universities, Federal labs, and nonprofit organizations), manufacturing centers, and investment opportunities.