WPTO SBIR/STTR Topics Webinar – FY23 Phase I Release 2

Watch the recording of the Dec. 1, 2022, webinar to learn more about the water-power-focused topics and subtopics in the Nov. 7, 2022, SBIR/STTR release. Follow along in the webinar slides.

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 FY23 Phase I 

In FY23, WPTO is seeking SBIR and STTR applications related to both Hydropower and Marine Energy technologies in five subtopics. Full descriptions of these subtopics can be found in the Phase I Release 2 Topics document under Topic C56-14.  These subtopics are: 

Innovations in Water Data

The collection, preparation, storage, processing, and interpretation of data as it relates to water is foundational to 1) understanding the resilience of hydropower to changing basin-scale and climate conditions and 2) strategizing new marine renewable energy projects. This subtopic seeks novel and/or opportunistic approaches in water-related data that could open new areas of opportunity or bring greater efficiency or capabilities to hydropower and/or marine energy applications. 

Advanced Coatings and Geomembrane Liners

This subtopic identifies two areas of interest for innovation related to advanced materials to support new and existing hydropower and pumped storage hydropower (PSH): 1) Coatings for hydropower that address friction loss, corrosion, cracking, insulation, seepage loss, and biofouling, and 2) Geomembrane lining systems for PSH reservoirs that are adapted from other industries, polymeric geomembrane liners, and others, considering seepage rates, soil retention, greenhouse gas emission reductions, installation, cost, and durability.

Identification of Cybersecurity Threats and Research and Development of Mitigation Strategies for Hydropower and Dam Operations

As hydropower facilities become increasingly interconnected to better enable remote operation and optimization within and across multiple plants, they become more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats, particularly in operational technology environments. WPTO is seeking applications that provide solutions for hydropower-specific cybersecurity challenges across a range of plant configurations, including novel solutions or existing technologies that could be adapted for hydropower facilities and dams.

Co-Development of Marine Energy Technologies (CMET)

This subtopic, which has been run annually for the last three years, seeks applications for the development and design of new marine energy prototypes specific to the needs of an identified end user in the blue economy.

Marine Energy Supply Chain Development

Currently there is no clustered or established marine energy supply chain in the US. The objective of this subtopic is to spur the development of innovative systems or prototypes that will improve the logistics and supply chain capabilities (i.e., faster, cheaper more resilient, more secure, more adaptive) necessary for the deployment of marine energy technologies on a commercial scale. These innovations will be critical in delivery of operations, specialized manufacturing, and other supporting services such as environmental monitoring & impact assessment, certification, and project management. 

Learn More About SBIR/STTR

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

Differences in SBIR & STTR

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.

Phases, Funding Levels, and Timetables

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.

How to Apply

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

Grant Assistance

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.

Frequently Asked Questions


  • 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?