Funding Programs: Fostering Commercialization of Nanotechnologies

In addition to grants, the Federal Government offers special programs designed to seed commercialization activity that facilitates economic growth. These programs support small business, universities, and other research institutions. These are organized below under the following headings: collaborations, multi-agency funding opportunities, and agency-specific programs. Note that the programs and other activities listed below are only examples; this is not a comprehensive list of all relevant Federal Government activities. Additional information on Federal funding opportunities is available at Examples of current nanotechnology-related research solicitations are also posted at


Federal Lab Consortium (FLC)

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) is the formally chartered, nationwide network of over 300 Federal laboratories, agencies, and research centers that fosters commercialization best practice strategies and opportunities for accelerating federal technologies from out of the labs and into the marketplace. FLC Business is described as a “one stop shop for U.S. laboratory information: Laboratories, Available Technologies, Funding, Programs, Facilities, and more.”


IN-Q-TEL is a non-profit strategic investor that accelerates the development and delivery of cutting-edge technologies to U.S. Government agencies that keep our Nation safe. Supported work bridges the gap between the challenging technology needs of the national security agencies, the rapidly changing innovations of the startup world, and the venture community that funds those startups.

Manufacturing USA

Manufacturing USA brings together industry, academia, and government partners within a growing network of advanced manufacturing institutes to increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness. Each institute is a public-private partnership that focuses on promoting robust and sustainable manufacturing research and development in a specific, promising advanced manufacturing technology area. The program advances American manufacturing innovation by creating the infrastructure needed to allow U.S. industry and academia to work together to solve industry-relevant manufacturing problems in research and development, technology transition, workforce training, and education. The institutes catalyze cooperation between U.S. companies and researchers from universities and Federal laboratories to rapidly develop ideas and inventions into products and processes that can be used by U.S. manufacturers. By involving small and large U.S.-based companies, the Manufacturing USA institutes stimulate the formation of manufacturing ecosystems, building advanced capabilities into the domestic supply chain so that new technologies developed in the U.S. are manufactured here in the U.S. rather than in other countries. Each institute works to ensure that American workers are trained for the high-paying jobs needed to manufacture these new technologies.

Small Business Association (SBA) Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program

FAST is a competitive grants program administered by the SBA and designed to strengthen the technological competitiveness of small businesses. It improves the participation of small technology firms in the innovation and commercialization of new technology, thereby helping keep the United States on the cutting edge of research and development in science and technology.

Multi-Agency Funding Opportunities

Small Business Innovation Research / Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR)

SBIR is a highly competitive program that encourages small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides the incentive to profit from its commercialization. By including qualified small businesses in the Nation's R&D arena, high-technology innovation is stimulated and the United States builds entrepreneurial spirit to meet specific research and development needs.

STTR is an important small business program that expands funding opportunities in the Federal innovation R&D arena. Central to the program is expanding the public/private sector partnership to include joint venture opportunities for small business and the Nation's premier nonprofit research institutions. Each year, five Federal departments and agencies are required to reserve a portion of their R&D funds for STTR awards to small business/nonprofit research institution partnerships. Currently, the five Federal agencies participating in the STTR program are DOD, DOE, DHHS (NIH), NASA, and NSF.

Departments and agencies currently participating in the SBIR program, each with their own websites, are the National Institutes of Health (NIH); the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Defense (DOD), Education (DOEd), Energy (DOE), Homeland Security (DHS), and Transportation (DOT); the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Within the Department of Defense, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Air Force, Navy, and Army have their own SBIR/STTR sites. There is also a searchable portal for all DOD SBIR and STTR solicitations.

Innovation Corps (I-Corps™)

National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps™)

The NSF I-Corps program prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the university laboratory, and accelerates the economic and societal benefits of NSF-funded basic-research projects that are ready to move toward commercialization. Through I-Corps, grantees learn to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and gain skills in entrepreneurship through training in customer discovery and guidance from established entrepreneurs.

Department of Energy (DOE) I-Corps

Energy I-Corps pairs teams of researchers with industry mentors for an intensive two-month training where the researchers define technology value propositions, conduct customer discovery interviews, and develop viable market pathways for their technologies. Researchers return to the lab with a framework for industry engagement to guide future research and inform a culture of market awareness within the labs.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) I-Corps

The NIH I-Corps program seeks to develop and nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon biomedical research to develop technologies, products, and services that benefit society. The program is focused on educating researchers and technologists on how to translate technologies from the lab into the marketplace. Participating NIH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) institutes and centers provide administrative supplement awards to currently-funded SBIR and STTR Phase I grantees. The program is designed to provide three-member project teams with access to instruction and mentoring in order to accelerate the translation of technologies currently being developed with NIH and CDC SBIR and STTR funding. It is anticipated that outcomes for the I-Corps teams participating in this program will include significantly refined commercialization plans and well-informed pivots in their overall commercialization strategies.

Agency-Specific Programs

Department of Defense (DOD)

Air Force Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium (NBMC)

The Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium was formed by FlexTech Alliance, for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), in collaboration with a nationwide group of industry partners. The mission of NBMC is to bring together leading scientists, engineers, and business development professionals from industry and universities in order to work collaboratively in a consortium, and to mature an integrated suite of nano-bio manufacturing technologies to transition to industrial manufacturing.

DOD ManTech Program

The DOD Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) program is the Defense Department’s investment mechanism for staying at the forefront of defense-essential manufacturing capability. ManTech develops technologies and processes for the affordable, timely production and sustainment of defense systems. It matures and validates emerging manufacturing technologies to support low-risk implementation in industry and in DOD facilities such as depots and shipyards. The program addresses production issues from system development through transition to production and sustainment. Investments are focused on those that have the most benefit to the warfighter and include quick-hitting, rapid response projects to address immediate manufacturing needs.

DOD Defense Production Act, Title III Program

The mission of the Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III program is to “create assured, affordable, and commercially viable production capabilities and capacities for items essential for national defense.” It is a Government-funded venture that aides manufacturers specializing in materials used for defense applications. Production capabilities that would otherwise be inadequate are transformed to support the material requirements of defense programs in a timely and affordable manner. Title III focuses on materials and components that could be used in a broad spectrum of defense systems. Projects funded under the program create numerous economic and technological benefits for domestic industries and consumers.

DOD University Affiliated Research Center (UARC)

UARCs are research organizations within a university or college that are established to provide or maintain essential engineering, research, and/or development capabilities through a long term, strategic relationship with DOD. Each UARC has areas of expertise that are identified as core competencies that it must provide in support of its mission to support DOD.

Office of Naval Research (ONR) Future Naval Capabilities (FNC)

FNC is a science and technology process designed to develop and transition cutting-edge technologies to acquisition programs within a three-year timeframe. The program delivers these technologies or integration into platforms, weapons, sensors, or specifications to improve Navy and Marine Corps warfighting and support capabilities. FNCs typically begin at a point at which component validation in a laboratory/relevant environment has occurred (Technology Readiness Level, or TRL 4/5). FNCs are subsequently matured to the point of a demonstrated model or prototype in a relevant/operational environment (TRL 6/7). Once the technology is demonstrated, the acquisition sponsor takes responsibility for conducting any additional research, development, test, and evaluation necessary to engineer and integrate the product into an acquisition program, or other program, ultimately leading to the deployment the new technological capability into the fleet or force.

DOD Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF)

The Rapid Innovation Fund provides a collaborative vehicle for small businesses to provide the department with innovative technologies that can be rapidly inserted into acquisition programs that meet specific defense needs. RIF is administered by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD R&E) and Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP).

DOD Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI)

MURI efforts involve teams of researchers investigating high-priority topics and opportunities that intersect with more than one traditional technical discipline. For many military problems this multidisciplinary approach serves to stimulate innovations, accelerate research progress, and expedite transition of results into DOD applications. MURI awards are made in research topics specified by the participating defense agencies each year that the program is in force. Specified topics change each year. Awards are typically for a period of three years (funded incrementally or as options) with two additional years possible as options to bring the total award to five years, and at a funding level ranging from half a million to about a million dollars per year, with the size of the award dependent upon the topic, technical goals, and availability of appropriations.

Department of Energy (DOE)

DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO)

AMO supports R&D projects, R&D consortia, and early-stage technical partnerships with national laboratories, companies (for-profit and not-for profit), state and local governments, and universities through competitive, merit-reviewed funding opportunities designed to investigate new manufacturing technologies. AMO R&D consortia are collaborative communities that provide participants with affordable access to physical and virtual tools and enable demonstration in targeted technical areas of manufacturing. Industry, and in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, benefit from the personal exchange inherent in sharing common infrastructure and facility resources. AMO’s technical partnerships provide engagement with the private sector to ensure translation of the results of early-stage R&D related to advanced manufacturing, supporting the deployment of manufacturing technologies and practices across American industry to increase productivity and reduce water and energy use.

DOE Advanced Research Projects Office-Energy (ARPA-E) 

ARPA-E is focused on overcoming specific technical barriers around a specific energy area, and periodically seeks to identify high-potential projects that address the full range of energy-related technologies.

DOE High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg)

The HPC4Mfg program unites the world-class computing resources and expertise of DOE national laboratories with U.S. manufacturers to deliver solutions that could revolutionize manufacturing. Led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and joined by principal national laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley and Oak Ridge national laboratories (ORNL), HPC4Mfg offers a low-risk path for U.S. manufacturing companies interested in adopting high-performance computing (HPC) technology to advance clean energy technologies and increase energy efficiency while reducing risk of HPC adoption.

DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC)

The purpose of the EFRC program is to accelerate transformative discovery, combining the talents and creativity of our national scientific workforce with a powerful new generation of tools for penetrating, understanding, and manipulating matter on the atomic and molecular scales. These integrated, multi-investigator centers involve partnerships among universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit firms that conduct fundamental research focusing on one or more “grand challenges” and use-inspired “basic research needs” identified in major strategic planning efforts by the scientific community.

DOE Energy Innovation Hubs 

The Energy Innovation Hubs are integrated research centers that combine basic and applied research with engineering to accelerate scientific discovery that addresses critical energy issues. In total, there are currently four Hubs that work on everything from advanced research to produce fuels directly from sunlight (the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis) to improving battery technology for transportation and the grid (the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research) to developing solutions for rare earth elements and other materials critical to a growing number of clean energy technologies (the Critical Materials Institute).

DOE Office of Energy Materials Network (EMN)

Through the Energy Materials Network, the Energy Department is taking a different approach to materials R&D that aims to solve industry’s toughest energy materials challenges. EMN’s targeted, growing network of consortia led by the Energy Department’s national labs is better integrating all phases of R&D, from discovery through deployment, and facilitating industry access to its national laboratories’ capabilities, tools, and expertise to accelerate the materials development cycle and enable U.S. manufacturers to deliver innovative, made-in-America products to the world market. Each EMN consortium brings together national labs, industry, and academia to focus on specific classes of materials aligned with industry's most pressing challenges. Stakeholders from industry, academia, and the national labs can partner with EMN consortia through several mechanisms. These mechanisms are intended to be available via short-form agreements that can be executed in less than a month. Specific DOE Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) may also provide stakeholders with access to EMN consortia. Each specific FOA provides details on the requirements for obtaining funding. FOAs related to EMN are listed here.

DOE Small Business Vouchers (SBV)

The DOE SBV program facilitates access to the DOE national labs for American small businesses, enabling them to tap into the intellectual and technical resources they need to overcome critical technology challenges for their advanced energy products and gain a global competitive advantage. Through SBV, selected small businesses receive access to the state-of-the-art facilities and experts at participating DOE national labs, while the labs expand their knowledge of and involvement with the private sector, helping small businesses with advanced technologies contribute to American competitiveness and economic growth.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency (HSARPA)

HSARPA supports cutting-edge research to produce revolutionary changes in technologies, new capabilities and threat and risk assessments for the Homeland Security Enterprise. HSARPA conducts analysis to understand component organizations current missions, systems, and processes and helps identify operational gaps where new technologies can have the most impact. Program managers lead teams of subject matter experts to develop, test, and evaluate these new homeland security technologies and capabilities.

DHS Business Opportunities

The DHS Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate works with diverse partners from across the government, industry, academia, laboratories and even around the world. It also builds new networks with creative problem solvers — start-ups, incubators and accelerators — to find solutions. These partners help S&T experiment, find emerging technologies, and commercialize technologies—all with the goal of finding better ways to protect the homeland from evolving threats. DHS’s Industry Guide lays out the agency’s technology needs, describes S&T’s technical focus areas, and identifies opportunities and tools for industry to work with DHS.

DHS Research and Development Partnerships

The DHS Research and Development Partnerships (RDP) Group develops, fosters, and leverages innovative partnerships and serves as a primary resource in establishing and managing world-class centers of excellence and Federal laboratories. RDP establishes strategic links that provide access to billions of dollars of research, development, and testing and evaluation activities performed by other government agencies, countries, universities, laboratories, the private sector, and small businesses; sources the R&D community, including acquiring existing business solutions, initiating industry R&D programs, establishing partnership agreements, evaluating government intellectual property for potential patents and licenses; and fosters innovative research in universities, labs, small businesses, and the private sector.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

FAA Air Transportation Centers of Excellence (COE)

The FAA recognizes the critical need to develop the Nation's technology base while educating the next generation of aviation professionals. Following a rigorous open dialogue and competitive process, the FAA Administrator selects a university team to serve as a Center of Excellence in individual mission-critical topics. The COEs are established through cooperative agreements with U.S. universities, and their members and affiliates, which conduct focused research and development and related activities over a period of 10 years.

Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA)

IARPA invests in high-risk, high-payoff research programs to tackle some of the most difficult challenges of the agencies and disciplines in the Intelligence Community (IC). IARPA collaborates across the IC to ensure that its research addresses relevant future needs. This cross-community focus ensures IARPA’s ability to address cross-agency challenges, leverage both operational and R&D expertise from across the IC, and coordinate transition strategies with our agency partners. IARPA does not have an operational mission and does not deploy technologies directly to the field. Instead, IARPA facilitates the transition of research results to its IC customers for operational application.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC)

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program nurtures visionary ideas that could transform future NASA missions with the creation of breakthroughs — radically better or entirely new aerospace concepts — while engaging America's innovators and entrepreneurs as partners in the journey. The program seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources; NIAC projects study innovative, technically credible, advanced concepts that could one day “change the possible” in aerospace. The NIAC solicitations page includes information about the status of current NASA Research Announcements (NRAs). Descriptions of current NIAC projects are here.

NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s University Leadership Initiative (ARMD ULI)

ARMD ULI allows universities and university-led partnerships to provide strategic leadership that advances ARMD’s research objectives and promotes education of the next generation of engineers. Proposers identify technical challenges and research activities that will contribute to the six strategic thrusts provided in the ARMD Strategic Implementation Plan. Technical challenges are distinct barriers that must be overcome in order to achieve the outcomes associated with each strategic thrust. Research activities are limited-duration projects contributing the knowledge or capabilities needed to accomplish the proposer-defined technical challenges.

NASA Space Technology Research Grants (NASA STRG)

The Space Technology Research Grants program features a low-TRL technology portfolio of groundbreaking research in advanced space technology. The NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship (NSTRF) solicitation seeks to sponsor graduate student researchers who show significant potential to contribute to NASA’s goal of creating innovative new space technologies for our Nation’s science, exploration, and economic future. The topics featured in the Early Career Faculty (ECF), Early Stage Innovations (ESI), and Space Technology Research Institutes (STRI) solicitations are of high priority to NASA’s mission directorates and the aerospace community. In addition, the topics represent areas where it is anticipated that academia is ideally suited to provide significant innovations. All four opportunities are aligned with the agency’s technology roadmaps and the NASA Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan.

NASA Centennial Challenges

NASA Centennial Challenges were initiated in 2005 to directly engage the public in the process of advanced technology development. The program offers incentive prizes to generate revolutionary solutions to problems of interest to NASA and the Nation. The program seeks innovations from diverse and non-traditional sources. Competitors are not supported by Government funding, and awards are only made to successful teams when the challenges are met. In keeping with the spirit of the Wright Brothers and other American innovators, the Centennial Challenge prizes are offered to independent inventors including small businesses, student groups, and individuals. These independent inventors are sought to generate innovative solutions for technical problems of interest to NASA and the Nation and to provide them with the opportunity to stimulate or create new business ventures.

NASA Game Changing Development Program (NASA GCD)

The Game Changing Development program is a part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. The program advances space technologies that may lead to entirely new approaches for the agency’s future space missions and provide solutions to significant national needs. The program focuses efforts in the mid TRL range of (3-5/6), generally taking technologies from proof of concept through component or breadboard testing in a relevant environment. The program employs a balanced approach of guided technology development efforts and competitively selected efforts from across academia, industry, NASA, and other Government agencies.

NASA Technology Demonstration Missions Program (NASA TDM)

The TDM program, part of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, focuses on crosscutting technologies with strong customer interest that meet the needs of NASA and industry by enabling new missions or greatly enhancing existing ones. Chosen technologies will be thoroughly ground- and flight-tested in relevant operating environments—reducing risks to future flight missions, gaining operational heritage, and continuing NASA’s long history as a technological leader. These newly proven technologies will enable future NASA missions to pursue bolder goals; make human missions safer and more rewarding; and enable new expansion of space industry in the Government and commercial sectors.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

NIH Commercialization Accelerator Program (CAP)

NIH has partnered with the Larta Institute to design and deliver the Commercialization Accelerator program, which helps accelerate SBIR and STTR Phase II awardees’ commercialization outcomes with individualized assistance toward accomplishing key commercialization goals.

NIH Niche Assessment Program

The NIH Niche Assessment Program is designed to help small businesses “jump start” their commercialization efforts. All active HHS (NIH, CDC, FDA) SBIR/STTR Phase I awardees and Phase I Fast-Track awardees are eligible to apply. The program provides market insight and data that can be used to help small businesses strategically position their technology in the marketplace. The results of this program can help small businesses develop their commercialization plans for their Phase II application, and be exposed to potential partners.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

NIST Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) 

MEP works with small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers to help them create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money. The nationwide network provides a variety of services, from innovation strategies to process improvements to green manufacturing. MEP also works with partners at the state and Federal levels on programs that put manufacturers in position to develop new customers, expand into new markets, and create new products.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI)

GOALI seeks to stimulate collaboration between academic research institutions and industry. Under this proposal type, academic scientists and engineers request funding either in conjunction with a regular proposal submitted to a standing NSF program or as a supplemental funding request to an existing NSF-funded award.

NSF Non-Academic Research Internships for Graduate Students (INTERN)

NSF has made INTERN available as a supplemental funding opportunity in fiscal year (FY) 2018 and FY 2019 to provide support for non-academic research internships for graduate students to support career opportunities in any sector of the U.S. economy.

NSF Industry University Cooperative Research Centers (IUCRC)

The NSF IUCRC program enables industrially relevant, pre-competitive research via multi-member, sustained partnerships among industry, academe, and government. NSF supports the development and evolution of IUCRCs, providing a financial and procedural framework for membership and operations in addition to best practices. Centers bring together faculty and students from academic institutions with companies, state/Federal/local government, and non-profits to perform cutting-edge pre-competitive fundamental research of interest to industry and that can drive innovation and the economy. IUCRCs offer a platform for significant leveraging of financial investment to accelerate the knowledge base in emerging technological and manufacturing sectors and develop an industrially savvy workforce.

NSF Engineering Research Centers (ERC)

The goal of NSF's ERC program is to integrate engineering research and education with technological innovation to transform national prosperity, health, and security. ERCs create an innovative, inclusive culture in engineering to cultivate new ideas and pursue engineering discovery that achieves a significant science, technology, and societal outcome within the 10-year timeframe of NSF support. A New Vision for Center-Based Engineering Research was presented at the May 2017 National Science Board meeting.

NSF Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) Program

The NSF Partnerships for Innovation (PFI) program within the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP) offers researchers the opportunity to transform new knowledge into societal benefits through translational research and technology development efforts which catalyze partnerships to accelerate innovations that address significant societal needs. The program offers two broad tracks for proposals in pursuit of the six aforementioned goals: (1) The Technology Translation (PFI-TT) track offers an NSF-funded researcher the opportunity to advance his or her prior NSF-funded research results towards developing technological innovations with promising commercial potential and societal impact. Projects are supported to demonstrate proof-of-concept, prototype, or technology development and scale-up while exposing faculty and students to (and engaging them in) innovation and entrepreneurially-focused activities that could possibly lead to partnership opportunities, the creation of new intellectual property and technologically-driven commercialization outcomes that address societal needs. (2) The Research Partnerships (PFI-RP) track provides an opportunity to support technology development activities through a multi-organization collaboration. This track supports a research consortium ecosystem focused on a clear project thrust. It allows for partnerships between academic researchers and a variety of third-party organizations (such as industry, non-academic research organizations, federal laboratories, public or non-profit technology transfer organizations, and/or other universities) to conduct applied research in highly collaborative, multidisciplinary teams, on problems typically beyond the reach of a single researcher.

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