A NSW Government website

NSW SBIR program

NSW SBIR program FAQs

What is the SBIR program?

The NSW Small Business Innovation & Research (SBIR) program is an initiative of the NSW Government program that provides competitive grants to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to find and commercialise innovative solutions to well-defined problems for NSW Government agencies.

The establishment of the SBIR program was recommended as the first Priority Action of the Turning ideas into jobs: Accelerating research & development in NSW Action Plan. The program is modelled on similar programs at the Commonwealth level (the Business Research and Innovation Initiative) and in the United Kingdom (the Small Business Research Initiative) and the United States (Small Business Innovation and Research program).

The SBIR program is designed to:

  • Leverage the capacity of NSW-based R&D in SMEs to address the needs of the NSW Government
  • Grow the number of innovative products, services and jobs in NSW.

The SBIR program is managed by R&D NSW, within Investment NSW, with the support of other NSW Government agencies.

How does the SBIR program work?

The SBIR program has three phases. Not all SME applications will proceed through all phases:

Phase 1 – Feasibility study: An SME submits a proposal to solve one of the five SBIR program challenges. The proposals are assessed, with each successful applicant receiving a grant of up to $100,000 to conduct a feasibility study over a period of three months.

Phase 2 – Proof of concept: Successful feasibility study grantees are invited to apply for the proof of concept phase. Applications are assessed and each successful proof-of-concept grantee will receive up to $1,000,000 to develop a proof of concept over a period of up to 15 months.

Phase 3 – Procurement: NSW Government agencies will consider purchasing successful solutions.

What funding is available?

Funding for Phase 1 feasibility studies will be up to $100,000 per study over a period of three months.

After completing a feasibility study in Phase 1, feasibility study grantees will have the opportunity to apply for Phase 2 proof of concept grants. Successful proof of concept grantees will each receive up to $1,000,000 to develop a proof of concept over a period of up to 15 months.

On the successful completion of a feasibility study and a proof of concept, the NSW Government may consider procuring the solution (Phase 3).

All successful applicants will enter into a funding agreement with the NSW Government. Grants may only cover eligible expenditure as defined in the 2021 SBIR Program Guidelines.

What are the SBIR program challenges?

Each SBIR program challenge describes a problem that a NSW Government agency (‘the Challenge Agency’) is facing that requires a new and innovative solution. For the 2021 SBIR program there are five challenges:

R&D NSW will host a webinar for each challenge in July 2021. Each webinar will describe the SBIR program, the challenge, and provide an opportunity for prospective applicants to ask questions of the NSW Government agency proposing that challenge. The webinars will be recorded and made available on the SBIR program website.

Details of the webinars and how to participate will be available on the SBIR program website.

Will new challenge statements be released?

Further challenge statements are to be released in the first half of 2022.

Can I apply for more than one challenge?

Yes, you can apply for more than one challenge. You will need to complete a separate application for each challenge.

What technologies and services does the SBIR program support?

The SBIR program is focused on supporting innovative technologies and services that:

  • Solve NSW Government challenges, and
  • Could be commercialised and sold to other end-users (for example, other governments or the private sector).

Proposed solutions that address a NSW Government need, but do not have commercial potential in domestic or international markets will not be successful.

Proposed solutions must be innovative technologies and services that require development and commercialisation, not existing solutions that are already commercially available in Australia or elsewhere.

Grant recipients will retain intellectual property rights and the right to sell in domestic and global markets.

I have already developed a product or service. Can I apply?

Proposed solutions must be innovative technologies and services that require development and commercialisation, not existing solutions that are already commercially available in Australia or elsewhere.

Who will hold the intellectual property rights in my solution?

Grant recipients will retain intellectual property rights and the right to sell in domestic and global markets.

Is the SBIR program competitive?

Yes, applications for both the feasibility study and proof of concept are assessed against assessment criteria (see below). Not all SMEs will proceed through all phases. There is no guarantee that the NSW Government agency putting forward a challenge will purchase a solution from any grantee.

What makes a good application?

A good application will propose an innovative solution that:

  • Solves one of the SBIR program challenges
  • Could be commercialised and sold to other end-users (for example, other governments or the private sector), and
  • Is not commercially available in Australia or elsewhere.

A good application will also comprehensively address the assessment criteria:

Technical (40 points)

(a) To what extent would the proposed solution address the challenge statement, including the solution requirements?

(b) Is the proposed solution ready to enter the feasibility study stage?

(c) How is the proposed solution innovative and superior to what is currently on the market?

Commercial (30 points)

(a) Does the proposed solution have commercial potential?

(b) Given its commercial potential, does the solution deserve public investment?

(c) Does the application provide a reasonable plan for the next steps towards commercialisation and adoption, including identifying potential barriers and how these will be mitigated?

Delivery (30 points)

(a) Does the company and project team have the appropriate skills and experience to carry out the project?

(b) Does the team have access to the equipment, technology, infrastructure and financial resources needed to carry out the project?

(c) Does the application provide a reasonable project plan, including a budget, risk management plan and performance measures?

Who will assess my feasibility study application?

R&D NSW will review applications against the SBIR program eligibility criteria. Eligible applications will be assessed by both the Challenge Agency and an independent panel of experts with experience in business development, commercialisation, venture capital and entrepreneurship.

How do I apply?

Please apply on the SBIR program webpage. Applications will open in late June 2021.

Please respond to all questions in the application form. We also ask applicants to upload:

(a) A video presentation no longer than three minutes

(b) A project budget.

Applicants may also be required to provide profit and loss statements and balance sheets from the last two years.

When do applications close?

Applications close at 11:59pm AEST on Monday 16 August 2021.

Am I eligible to apply?

To be eligible to apply for the SBIR program you must:

(a) Have an Australian Business Number (ABN)

(b) Be one of the following entities:

  • A small or medium-sized enterprise with under 200 full-time equivalent employees, or
  • An individual or partnership, provided you agree to form a company incorporated in Australia to enter into a grant agreement, or
  • A NSW public research organisation applying through its appropriate technology transfer office, provided you agree to form a company incorporated in Australia to enter into a grant agreement.

(c) Meet one of the following criteria:

  • Be headquartered in NSW, or
  • Conduct the majority of business research and development and production operations in NSW.

(d) Hold the Intellectual Property or the rights to commercialise the proposed solution.

(e) If successful, undertake to conduct SBIR program-related research and development work in NSW.

Can I apply if my business is not based in NSW?

If your business is not headquartered in NSW, you are still eligible to apply for the SBIR program provided that your business conducts the majority of its research and development and production in NSW.

Can I submit a joint application with a research organisation?

Yes. In fact, joint applications between NSW SMEs and NSW-based research organisations (including universities) are encouraged. As the SME you must lead the project and submit the application. In your application, you must describe who the project partners are and what each organisation will contribute to the feasibility study.

Can I partner with a business or research organisation outside NSW?

You are encouraged to work with NSW partners, including other NSW SMEs and research organisations. You may work with research organisations and businesses outside NSW on your feasibility study and proof of concept project where necessary.

How is funding distributed?

The NSW Government will enter into a funding agreement with each successful SME. The funding will take the form of a cash contribution paid in instalments to the lead SME in the application. The funding agreement will lay out the eligible expenditure, which will include direct costs of the project and eligible labour expenditure. The lead SME will be responsible for distributing the funding to any partners or contractors in accordance with the proposal and funding agreement.

What is expected of applicants?

Applicants who are successful at the proof-of-concept stage are expected to conduct negotiations for any potential sale of the solution to the participating NSW Government agency in good faith. Agencies will decide whether to purchase any solution at their own cost and in accordance with NSW Government procurement policies. There is no guarantee that the NSW Government agency putting forward a challenge will purchase a solution from any grantee. Grantees will retain intellectual property rights in their solutions and the right to sell them domestic and global markets.

What is the timeline for the SBIR program? (Please note dates are subject to change.)

The expected timeline for the SBIR program is as follows:

Jun 2021

Phase 1: Feasibility study applications open

Jul 2021

Webinars are hosted for each SBIR program challenge

Aug 2021

Phase 1: Feasibility study applications close

Sep 2021

Applications are assessed for Phase 1: Feasibility study

Oct 2021

Grants awarded and Phase 1: Feasibility studies commence

Jan 2022

Feasibility studies are completed and grantees are invited to apply for Phase 2: Proof of concept

Mar 2022

Phase 2: Proof of concept projects commence

How can I participate in the webinars?

R&D NSW will host a webinar for each challenge in July 2021. Details of the webinars and how to participate will be made available on the SBIR program website in late June. The webinars will also be recorded and made available on the SBIR program website.

I have another question

For more information please contact R&D NSW:

sbir@chiefscientist.nsw.gov.au