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An Assessment of the SBIR Program at the Department of Energy
5.4.2 Internal Reallocation of Topics Among Programs
The mandate from Congress is for 2.5 percent of the federal R&D to be allocated to small businesses as part of the SBIR program. Each of the agencies has the freedom to implement this program as appropriate to their mission and structure. DoE has since the mid to late 1990s allocated the SBIR award funds on a prorated basis according to the funding of each of its 12 internal program areas.
However, some program areas have generated more applications than others. The chance of winning a Phase I award thus varied greatly between programs, as can be seen in the 2005 Award Rates (see Table 5-1). For example, a Phase I SBIR application in the Nuclear Physics program area had a 53 percent probability of success, while that of an application in Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy was only 8 percent. On average, 19 percent of DoE SBIR applications in 2005 were successful.
These differences in award rates have already started to drive internal reallocation of funds. Some Basic Energy Sciences topics have been reallocated to Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This internal reallocation occurs case by case, and is negotiated between programs. Some programs also share topics that jointly apply to both programs. However, it seems possible that this might be an area worth further examination by DoE as it seems to ensure that the best quality proposals are funded.
TABLE 5-1 2005 SBIR/STTR Award Rates
Number of Topics
Number of Applications
Number of Phase I Awards
Award Rate (%)
Advanced scientific computing research
Basic energy sciences
Biological and environmental research
High energy physics
Fusion energy sciences
Energy efficiency and renewable energy
Nonproliferation and national security
Electric transmission and distribution
SOURCE: Department of Energy SBIR program Web site.