WPTO SBIR/STTR FY24 Phase I Release 2 Topics Webinar

Look at the slides from the Dec. 5, 2023, webinar to learn more about the water power-focused topics/sub-topics from the November 6 release. 

Watch the webinar.

WPTO SBIR and STTR: Investing in Small Businesses for Technology Innovation and Commercialization

Watch the recording of the Sept. 27, 2023, webinar to learn more about how SBIR and STTR funding can help bring concepts to market.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs offer competitively awarded grants to small businesses to support scientific excellence and technological innovation.

Core objectives:

  • Increasing private sector commercialization of technology developed through federally supported research and development (R&D)
  • Stimulating technological innovation in the private sector
  • Encouraging participation by women-owned and minority-owned small businesses
  • Improving the return on investment from federally funded research for economic and social benefits to the nation.

The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), as part of the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), provides annual funding to competitively selected small businesses whose missions align with the office’s priorities of advancing marine energy and next generation hydropower and pumped storage systems for a flexible, reliable grid.

WPTO SBIR and STTR Topics for FY24 Phase I  

In FY24, WPTO is seeking SBIR and STTR applications related to both hydropower and marine energy technologies in nine subtopics, including three fast-track subtopics. Full descriptions of these subtopics can be found in the Phase I Release 2 Topics document under Topics C58-18 and C58-19. These subtopics are: 

Water Power Technologies (Fast-Track Only)

Trusted and community-driven research is fundamental to multiple stakeholders including rule makers, environmental regulators, hydropower and water resource managers, technology researchers and developers, and, most importantly, communities in which technologies are deployed and used. The goal of this topic is to encourage small businesses to incorporate community needs and inputs to the extent possible into their hydropower industry-related R&D. Additionally, this area of interest encourages the participation of small businesses in relevant hydropower-related industries from disadvantaged communities and/or with extensive, substantive partnerships with disadvantaged communities. 

The development of marine energy systems in open-water conditions involves harnessing the power of the ocean to generate power for the grid (megawatt scale) or for alterative end users with lower power requirements (kilowatt scale). Marine energy technologies have evolved significantly over the last several years with design convergence within tidal energy system development, although there has been a lack of design convergence within wave energy system development. The paradox of in-sea testing is fast learning versus costly deployments with each “system” having different design requirements. Ultimately, DOE and WPTO’s goal is to enable the development of cost-effective, reliable, and survivable systems. 

Wave energy converters can be integrated with existing or new coastal protection structures such as breakwaters, seawalls, and harbors to generate clean power while avoiding the environmental and operational risks of offshore marine energy deployment and supporting coastal resilience. While the development of these technologies remains nascent in the U.S., there are several successful long-term deployments internationally. This topic enables technology developers to test and demonstrate existing technologies, as well as advance new systems and novel concepts. Partnership with coastal infrastructure owners, operators, and end users, such as harbor and port entities, government organizations, and remote communities, is highly encouraged but not required. 

Water Power Technologies 

Advancing marine renewable energy technologies and hydropower efficiency and resilience relies on various sensing and monitoring technologies, data collection methods, instrument design, and more, for a wide range of applications ranging from new components in a device to monitoring of environmental conditions.  

State-of-the-art data analytics, models, and tools are required to solve design challenges for marine energy and hydropower projects, make maintenance decisions, and develop new hydroelectric operating regimes for a changing grid and climate. This subtopic seeks innovative approaches in water-related data that could open new areas of opportunity and bring greater efficiencies or capabilities to hydropower and/or marine energy applications. 

This topic seeks proposals for innovative technologies to accelerate the deployment of pumped storage hydropower (PSH) through improved PSH components or alternative/unconventional PSH configurations that reduce PSH costs and/or improve the value of PSH systems.  

Micro-hydropower (5 kilowatt to 1 megawatt) refers to a distributed energy resource that provides local and reliable energy services without several of the development challenges for larger hydropower projects. This subtopic seeks innovative technologies or approaches that enable cost-effective and timely deployments of micro-hydropower projects, particularly those at canal, conduit, and non-powered dam sites.  

The Co-Development of Marine Energy Technologies (CMET) subtopic seeks proposals for the development and design of new marine energy prototypes specific to the needs of an identified end user in the blue economy. Applicants may be technology developers and/or end users.  

The development of marine energy components faces several reliability challenges due to the harsh and dynamic marine environment which they will ultimately perform in. The technical complexities for manufacturing and subsystem integration with costly economic factors are significant challenges to address. The goal for this subtopic is to mitigate these challenges through improved design development efforts that focus on the identification, understanding, and testing of all environmental conditions that components will withstand once fully integrated at the subsystem or system level and deployed in sea. The testing efforts on a test rig, tank or within facilities that provide testing environments mimicking the harsh environments are vital to addressing component reliability. 

Learn More About SBIR/STTR

Any current SBIR/STTR funding opportunities will be listed in the Water Power Funding Opportunities.

SBIR and STTR offer zero cost-share grants through a three-phased approach focused on products and services with commercial potential. However, there are several key differences between the programs:

- STTR projects require the small business to be teamed with a non-profit research institution such as a university or federal laboratory.

- STTR is focused on technology transfer from the Research Institution (RI) to the small business, and then ultimately to the market. This has been expanded over time to include situations where the innovation belongs to the small business, but the firm wants to include important resources from a nonprofit RI in the technology’s development.

- SBIR project principle investigators (PIs) must be primarily employed at the small business, meaning that he or she cannot work full time elsewhere during the project period. With a STTR project, the PI could be primarily employed at either the RI or the small business.

SBIR Eligibility

  • For-profit company operating in U.S.
  • At least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. individuals.
  • No more than 500 employees, including affiliates.
  • Principal investigator (PI) must have primary employment with business.
  • Eligible small businesses can be owned by venture capital (VC), hedge funds (HF), and or private equity (PE) only if no one firm owns more than 50%.
  • 67% (or 2/3) of Phase I and 50% of Phase II work must be completed by the small business.

STTR Eligibility

  • For-profit company operating in U.S.
  • At least 51% owned and controlled by U.S. individuals.
  • No more than 500 employees, including affiliates.
  • PI need not be employed by business.
  • Non-profit research institution must be located in U.S. and defined as one of the following:
    • Non profit college or university
    • Domestic Nonprofit research organization
    • Federally funded R&D center.
  • 40% of work must be done by business and 30% by the research institution.
  • A written IP agreement must be in place between the research institution and the small business at the time of application.

Phase I: An SBIR-STTR Phase I Award establishes the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of the proposed R&D efforts, and determines the quality of performance of the small business awardee prior to providing further federal support. EERE Phase I grants are worth $200k and last up to 12 months.

Phase II, Initial & Sequential (A & B): An SBIR-STTR Phase II award continues the R&D efforts initiated in Phase I. The results achieved in Phase I, the scientific and technical merit, and the commercial potential determine whether a Phase II application is funded. Only Phase I awardees are eligible for a Phase II award. EERE Phase II grants can be worth $1.1-$1.6M with a two year performance period.

  • Initial Phase II awards are made the year following the Phase I.
  • Sequential Phase II (A & B) are awarded in the year following the end of the Initial Phase II. Phase II A awards are made so that there is no gap between the end of the Initial Phase II and the start of the Phase II A. Phase II B awards can be made so that they immediately follow the Initial Phase II or can be made one year after the end of the Phase II award. EERE does not make Sequential Phase II A awards, which continue research only—but does make some commercialization-focused Sequential Phase II B grants.
  • Phase III awards allow the small business to pursue commercialization objectives resulting from the Phase I/II R&D activities. WPTO, or any Energy Department program other than SBIR, may award non-competitive, follow-on grants or contracts for products or processes that meet the mission needs of those agencies, or for further R&D.

 Only U.S. small businesses are eligible to participate in the SBIR program. An SBIR/STTR awardee must meet the following criteria at the time of Phase I and Phase II awards:

  • Be independently owned and operated
  • Be organized for-profit
  • Have its principal place of business in the United States
  • Be a small business with 500 or fewer employees, including affiliates
  • Phase I awardees with multiple prior awards must meet the benchmark requirements for progress toward commercialization
  • Present ideas that align with EERE’s mission to lead Energy Department efforts to develop and deliver market-driven solutions for energy-saving homes, buildings, and manufacturing; sustainable transportation; and renewable electricity generation.

Click here for more information on the process for registration completion and application submission.

If a minority-owned or women-owned small business, or a small business from an under-represented state is applying for an SBIR grant for the first time, there may be potential to get assistance with completing a Phase I application through the Energy Department’s Phase 0 Assistance Program.


  • Q: We are wondering if our project would be an appropriate fit for this funding opportunity. 
    • A: We do not address or answer questions on specific projects and companies outside of the funding opportunity announcement process. The FY23 Funding Opportunity Announcement is scheduled to be published on December 12, 2022 and will describe the FOA process. Potential applicants must submit their ideas in a Letter of Intent by January 3, 2023. Typically, ideas that are responsive to a topic will not receive a response from the program, while ideas that are not responsive will receive feedback from the program around January 24, 2023 with a brief description of why the proposed project appears non-responsive. Submissions that receive an “appears non-responsive” response from the program may still apply into Phase I. 
  • Q: When is are applications for SBIR/STTR funding due?     
    • A: Please see here for the most up to date deadlines. All applications to Phase I MUST submit a Letter of Intent on or before January 3, 2023.
  • We are first time applicants and are unfamiliar with the application process and are looking for resources to assist in preparing an application. / We have previously submitted unsuccessful applications and are looking for resources to assist in preparing our application. Are there resources available to assist with the application process? 
  • We would like to better understand the topic and the program’s objectives. Where can I learn more?