SBIR Land Home Forums General SBIR/STTR Question Forum Primary Employment Requirements for Principal Investigator

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    John Pheatt


    There are three of us living in California that would like to start a company to develop a new technology.

    We are each currently primarily employed by companies that are not the small business concern associated with the SBIR application. Through Phase 1 funding, it would be unsustainable for us to be primarily employed by the small business concern, so this would remain a ‘side business.’ For Phase 2 funding, we expect we would be able to assume primary employment with the small business concern.

    Is there a way can we launch the company with Phase 1 funding?

    Thanks for your thoughts.



    Hi John,

    From the NSF SBIR Phase I solicitation:

    “The primary employment of the PI must be with the small business concern at the time of award and for the duration of the award, unless a new PI is named. Primary employment is defined as at least 51 percent employed by the small business. NSF normally considers a full-time work week to be 40 hours and considers employment elsewhere of greater than 19.6 hours per week to be in conflict with this requirement. […] A PI may be primarily employed at another organization at the time of submission, as long as he or she is primarily employed at the proposing small business at the time of award. A PI must devote a minimum of one calendar month of effort per six months of performance to an SBIR Phase I project”

    So you would have to come up with a solution to have at least one person (the PI) to be working full-time for the small business concern during the Phase I. It is not required to have this set up when you are submitting your proposal, so you can stay employed elsewhere up until the start of Phase I if you are funded.

    Let us know if you have any other questions, always happy to help!


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