The Congressionally-mandated Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are administered by the US Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Technology. SBA ensures through SBIR and STTR that small, high-tech, innovative businesses are a significant part of the Federal Government's research and development efforts. Both are competitively-awarded three-phase programs. Eleven Federal agencies, including NASA, participate in SBIR; five Federal agencies, including NASA, participate in STTR.
The technical topics and subtopics of specific interest to NASA are detailed each year in NASA's SBIR/STTR proposal solicitation. Four NASA Mission Directorates participate: Aeronautics Research (ARMD), Exploration Systems (ESMD), Science (SMD) and Space Operations (SOMD). More details on the overall NASA SBIR/STTR program are available at http://sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov/SBIR/SBIR.html.
All of the NASA Centers, plus JPL, actively participate in managing NASA's SBIR and STTR programs, and reinforce NASA's objective of infusing and integrating SBIR/STTR technologies and knowledge into its programs and projects. JPL is NASA's lead Center for managing SMD SBIR technology development, and also contributes significantly to managing ESMD and SOMD SBIR technology development.
SBIR funds are exclusively for small businesses, whereas STTR funds require a collaboration between a small business and a nonprofit research institution (RI). The RI may be a Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC), college or university, or a nonprofit research organization.
Note that although JPL is an FFRDC, it cannot partner on NASA STTR proposals, since it participates in the management of the program. However, JPL can partner on proposals to other agencies' STTR programs.