Categories: General


Mary Claire McCarthy


Many startups keep the lights on with funding from venture capitalists or angel donors. Windlift is supported by both – and something else. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program is a highly competitive program that offers financial and technical R&D support for technological innovation and private-sector commercialization. 

Windlift has won 5 SBIR contracts since 2011. Each contract outlines specific technical requirements for our system, such as system dimensions and the working environment. As a result, the designs have changed over the years. From big to small, we’ve done it all. One of our first systems was large enough to power roughly 10 U.S. homes. We’re now designing a significantly smaller system for the U.S. Marine Corps. This 1 kW Airborne Power Generator (APG) can power one U.S. home. We traded power for hyper-mobility and unparalleled energy density. Weighing roughly 60 lbs, two people can carry and set up this latest system in roughly 30 minutes! 


SBIR Award Timeline


Advantages of the SBIR Program 

The SBIR program is particularly advantageous for a few reasons. First, the funding is non-dilutive, which allows companies to keep control over the company’s direction and future profits. More than $15M of this type of funding supports Windlift’s activities. Secondly, this non-dilutive funding ensures that the businesses retain the sole right to intellectual property. Windlift holds two patents and has two more pending. Our Airborne Power Generator (APG) is a unique solution that utilizes advanced composite materials and unique components – many of which we designed in-house. 

The Three Phases of SBIR 

There are three phases of the SBIR program. The objective of the first phase is to establish the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of the proposed R&D efforts. These awards are generally $50,00 – $250,000 for six months. The second phase is to continue the efforts initiated in the first stage with typically $750,000 over two years. The final phase is difficult to reach. Only 1 out of every 1,000 companies reach this point. Phase III marks the point when companies are beginning to consider commercialization. The SBIR program itself does not fund this phase. Instead, this stage is financed by other sectors of the federal government. 

Windlift Reaches Phase III 

In 2020, Windlift obtained $8M in federal funding to support a Phase III contract. The Naval Research Laboratory also joined the partnership during this contract. This exciting investment has positioned us for incredible success. Our team of engineers has made leaps and bounds this past year.

We look forward to sharing some of these exciting progress points in the coming months. But here’s a hint: the APG is enjoying clear skies this spring, with more to follow this summer! 

Interested in learning more about airborne wind energy?

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  • August 10, 2022