Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis InternationalĀ® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


Volume 28 | 2005 | Number 2


An Opportunity for Science-Practice

Collaboration and Entrepreneurship* 

By Norman B. Anderson, Ph.D., APA Chief Executive Officer


Wouldn't it be great if there was lots of money available for psychologists to take research findings from our journals, develop innovative ways of translating those findings for public use, test whether the translation was effective, and create a business for commercializing the translation? Well, the federal government has made such money available, and too few psychologists take advantage of it. The programs are called the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These programs were created because many federal agencies are required to set aside a percentage of their budgets each year to fund the translation of federally funded research into commercial products. Some of the agencies that have these programs include the Departments of Health and Human Services, Defense, Education, Energy, Agriculture, and Homeland Security, as well as the National Science Foundation and NASA. The ultimate goal is to help ensure the public receives a return on its (tax) investment in federally funded research. But importantly, another goal is to provide seed funding for innovative start-up companies and small businesses, since the success of such companies serve to boost the economy and create employment opportunities. And the amount of money set aside for these programs is not trivial--in fiscal year 2005 the amount is over $600 million just at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Food and Drug Administration alone. I can tell you from my days at the NIH, getting funding from these programs is competitive but much less so than the traditional research grants. I am bullish about the SBIR/STTRs because I believe they help us get our great findings in the hands of those who can use them on a large scale, and also help bridge the gap between the scientific and the practice/business sides of the discipline.


How Does It Work?

There are some slight differences in requirements between the SBIR and STTR programs. With the SBIR, a key requirement is that the principal investigator (PI) on the grant must work in the small business concern the majority of his/her time if the grant is awarded. This is because the focus is on business development, but collaborators who work at universities full-time can be funded as co-investigators. With the STTR, the PI can work fulltime in research, but must collaborate with a small business concern. There are three phases of funding under the SBIR/STTR programs, and you have to progress through them in order. With Phase I, up to $100,000 is available for up to 6 months (SBIR) or one year (STTR) in order to establish the feasibility of the proposed effort, collect some preliminary data, and assess the quality of the small business concern. Phase II provides a continuation and expansion of the work initiated in Phase I, with a greater emphasis on commercialization potential and research findings, with up to $750,000 available for two years. In Phase III, the business concern is tasked with pursuing non-SBIR/STTR funding for its commercialization objectives (although such funding may come from government contracts).


Examples of Behaviorally Focused Grants

There is a great Web resource at NIH called Computer Retrieval of Information on Scientific Projects (CRISP) for searches for topics and abstracts from previously funded SBIR/STTR grants ( I did a recent search on the terms "behavior" and "psychology" under the SBIR/STTR grants for all PHS agencies for years 2003-2005, which produced over 350 relevant grants. Here are some of the topics that have received funding: Web-Based Diabetes Prevention Program for the Worksite; Promoting Social Competence in Family Child Care Setting; Social Skills Training for Aggressive Adolescents; Tailored Cognitive-Behavior Therapy for Chronic Pain; Individualized Expert Systems for Weight Management; Preventing Alcohol Related Convictions; Educating Parents: Behavioral Intervention in Autism; An Expert System to Reduce Depression in Primary Care; Behavioral Intervention to Prevent Falls in Older Adults; and Motivational Interviewing for Smoking Cessation, to name a few. As you can see, the topics are quite varied. The tools produced through the SBIR/STTR program are designed to be sold to government agencies, school systems, health practitioners, researchers, businesses and the general public.


Here are two online resources that can get you started: and I also strongly recommend contacting the SBIR/STTR office for personal guidance. Good luck!


*Copyright Ā© 2005 by the American Psychological Association. Reproduced with permission. Anderson, N. B. (2005, June). An opportunity for science-practice collaboration and entrepreneurship. Monitor on Psychology, 36,9.




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