NASA Provides $45 Million to Help Small Businesses

By McKenzie Carpenter Monday, March 29, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in one way or another. Small businesses have taken a particular hit as many have shut down due to a lack of revenue flowing through their businesses as a result of government restrictions. Last week, NASA announced a more than $45 million plan to support hundreds of small businesses through the agency’s program to help propel these businesses and NASA’s mission.

Dollar bills stacked up.

NASA Program

NASA, a global leader in space exploration, developed a program, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), to help support small businesses that share the government agency’s mission of helping expand humanity’s presence in space and improving life on Earth.

The program was designed with three phases. Phase I establishes the merit of the business. Phase II delves deeper into the development, demonstration, and delivery of the product or service the company provides. Lastly, Phase III is meant to assess the commercialization of the product or service. Small businesses that qualify for this program have 500 or fewer employees or are nonprofit research institutions with ties to a small business.

$45 Million in Phase I Funding

Last week, NASA announced it selected 365 United States (US) small business proposals to receive more than $45 million combined for Phase I funding of the SBIR and STTR program. NASA selected 289 small businesses and 47 research institutions, with 30% of funds going to new recipients. Each company will receive $125,000. Phase I SBIR contracts last for six months, and STTR Phase I contracts last for 13 months.

Jim Reuter, an associate administrator of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), said in the press release, “At NASA, we recognize that small businesses are facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic...This year, to get funds into the hands of small businesses sooner, we accelerated the release of the 2021 SBIR/STTR Phase I solicitation by two months. We hope the expedited funding helps provide a near-term boost for future success.”

Some companies that will receive the funding include woman-owned Syrnatec, Inc., Hispanic American-owned Innoveering, LLC., and a partnership between Quibitekk and the University of New Mexico. The press release also details that a particular focus has been placed on minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses and research institutions.

Proposal applications for Phase I are submitted on a yearly basis. Phase II funding for each recipient will be determined based on their progress in Phase I and subsequent funding proposals for Phase II.

COVID-19 Effect on Small Businesses

While NASA may be placing a special focus on businesses that align with the agency’s mission of space exploration and life on Earth improvements, in general, small businesses around the world have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many small businesses forced massive layoffs, and many were temporarily or even permanently shut down as a result of government restrictions.

In a study published last year by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, or PNAS, in a sample of 5,800 small businesses in the US, the number of full-time employees dropped by 32% between January 31 and March 2020.

About the Author


Headshot for author McKenzie Carpenter

McKenzie Carpenter is a graduate of Central Michigan University with a B.A.A. in Integrative Public Relations and French. McKenzie has previously worked for small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

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