Review of Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)

Closed 8 Feb 2017

Opened 9 Jan 2017


In her November 2016 speech to the CBI Annual Conference on a modern Industrial Strategy, the Prime Minister announced a Review of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), led by David Connell, an industry expert with a background in the UK’s science and technology sector.

SBRI is a cross-government programme, managed by Innovate UK (the UK’s innovation agency), that enables small businesses to bid for government contracts to develop new products and solutions for the public sector. Since 2010, SBRI contracts to companies  have increased from below £15m a year to currently over £50m a year, though usage varies across departments. SBRI plays a vital role in supporting small businesses to commercialise their innovative ideas.

The Review is looking at how we can extend the use of SBRI across government and other parts of the public sector and increase its impact. It will identify existing barriers and make recommendations to improve the programme.

As part of the Review, we welcome your views on how we can improve SBRI to help more small businesses turn their innovative ideas into technology-based products. Please submit your responses by 8 February 2017.

Information provided in response to this consultation, including personal information, may be subject to publication or disclosure in accordance with the access to information legislation. If you do not wish your response to be made public, then please make that clear in your responses. Otherwise, we will assume that by responding to our consultation you have given consent to us publishing your name and information submitted


Why your views matter

We are keen to hear your views on how we can maximise the impact of SBRI.

SBRI uses the government’s role as a lead customer through public procurement to spur the development of new technologies and innovative products. Lead customers, willing to help fund the development and trialling of new technologies and products, play a vital role in helping new companies get established and existing companies to create products and services. Besides reducing the need for investment when the level of risk makes attracting it difficult, they reduce time to market, help focus development on real customer needs, and build credibility with subsequent customers, partners and investors. Playing this role more effectively offers a powerful way for government to help more innovative British businesses commercialise their ideas.

SBRI competitions are open to businesses of all sizes, but SBRI is particularly relevant to new ventures and SMEs. Successful companies typically receive an initial  Phase 1 contract worth £50k - £100k and they can go on to win a Phase 2 contract of typically up to up to £1 million to develop and test a demonstrator or prototype. Awards take the form of contracts for services rather than grants and cover 100% of approved project costs. Collaboration with another company or university is not required, but subcontractors may be used where appropriate. Firms retain the rights to the Intellectual Property of the products they develop and can go on to commercialise and market them more widely.

SBRI is based on a long-standing US programme, the SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) , which provides around $2.5 billion each year in funding to SMEs to develop solutions for federal department needs. A wide range of innovations have gone on to be commercialised, and the scheme has supported the growth of major US technology corporations by providing funding at an early stage of their development.


  • SMEs (small and medium businesses)
  • Trade bodies
  • Medium business (50 to 250 staff)
  • Micro business (up to 9 staff)
  • Small business (10 to 49 staff)


  • Innovation
  • Industrial strategy