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Dr. Joseph Grant: Retired NASA Space Technology Mission Director

 In Blog, Success Profiles

A retired NASA Space Technology Mission Director, Dr. Joseph Grant shares his insights about the SBIR or STTR Program in NASA and his advice for businesses that want to be part of the program.


Dr. Joseph Grant is a retired National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology Mission Directorate after being part of the organization for 20 years.

He previously served as NASA’s Deputy Program Executive in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

Also, Dr. Grant has more than 15 years research and development experience in the area of Optics and Photonics.

Dr Grant earned his doctorate degree in Applied Physics from Alabama A&M University.


The SBIR or the STTR program funds the research, development, and demonstration of innovative technologies that will fulfill NASA’s requirements.

This is also aimed at small businesses and nonprofit research institutes such as universities and research laboratories that have ties with small businesses.

“That’s why I’m always out there trying to encourage entrepreneurs, small business, and university because in the universities is where a lot of the entrepreneurs, a lot of the technologies will come. They come from a lot of these minority universities.”

One thing that small businesses should also take note of is that this program is a grant and not a loan which means that you don’t have to pay it back after you are  done with your innovation or you failed to go to the next phase of the program.

This is made for the reason that a grant is the best way to pay the efforts of the researchers. Regardless if the study turns out nothing or it wouldn’t work, NASA is okay with that as long as you made your best effort and you couldn’t get the product where it was supposed to be.

“As long as you put in your best effort to try to get done what you proposed in phase one, no one is going to come back after you and say, ‘You didn’t do what you proposed, so I want my money back.’ That’s never, ever going to happen.”

However, even with this, NASA still hasn’t met a huge percentage of small businesses that join the program. Due to this, they aimed to encourage more minority universities and small businesses to join through a SBIR road tour.

Through this road tour, NASA aims to break the roadblock between the agency, the institutions, and the small businesses. They combine organizations that have the same capabilities. They also invite some of NASA’s prime contractors and the directors to talk about the goal of the program in front of minority universities and small businesses.

“So we created this entity to go out to the universities, set up a tour and invite as many of the minority universities within that region as possible and share with them the opportunities that were available to them as a minority university and to convince them that we as NASA, interestingly, do want to work with them.”


Dr. Joseph Grant believed that everyone wants to create technology that can change the world but in order for this innovation to achieve its purpose, you should be able to convince the program manager or the buyer about the worth of your technology.

“You have to convince him, the buyer, that it’s the best thing since sliced bread and honestly, he’s not really as much interested in the deep technology or technological advances that it has. He’s more interested in what is it going to do for me and how am I going to benefit from it?”

So, he advises to do a much better job in actually showing your target people how your development will do a better job against what they already have.

“Instead of telling them how great your technology or your product is, spend a little bit of time telling them what it is and spend much more time telling them how it would benefit them.”

In doing that, you should be able to communicate clearly with the government, which in this case is your target buyer. The government doesn’t want to waste their time so you must do your homework. Know everything beforehand before you present your innovation and learn about the program that you aim to be part of.

With this, Dr. Grant encourages minority small businesses to communicate with the government and your local small business program offices and to respond to requests for proposals and requests for information.

“Let them know that you’re interested in or you have something that they might be able to use… We can’t get to you if you don’t respond and we don’t know you’re out. Let them know you’re out. That’s what I would say.”


If you want to watch the full video where the former NASA Mission Director Dr. Joseph Grant talked about the SBIR or STTR program, then be sure to click the links below:

048: Dr Joseph Grant former NASA Mission Directorate discuss SBIR, NASA

048: Dr Joseph Grant, Retired NASA in Space Technology Mission Directorate discuss the ins and outs of SBIR/STTR

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