Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) Plan Guidance


In pursuit of SC’s commitment to advancing DEI, the Office of Science has added a Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) Plan Requirement for solicitations beginning in FY 2023. DOE SBIR/STTR began requiring the PIER Plans for Fiscal Year 2024 funding opportunities. This page is intended to provide guidance on development of DOE SBIR/STTR Applicant PIER Plans.

All applications must include a Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research (PIER) Plan as an appendix to the research project narrative. The PIER plan should describe the strategies and activities of the applicant to promote equity and inclusion as an integrated element of the research and development project within the proposing small business concern. Plans may include, but are not limited to: plans of your small business concern and collaborating institutions (if applicable) to recruit individuals from diverse backgrounds and groups historically underrepresented in the research community; plans to contribute to a research and development environment that fosters a safe, positive, and inclusive workplace; a sense of belonging among all personnel; and/or supporting training, mentoring, and partnering with underrepresented communities. Plans may leverage existing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion efforts of the applicant small business concern, but should not be a statement of broad principles.

The complexity and detail of a PIER Plan is expected to increase with the size of the small business, research team and the number of personnel to be supported.

Genuine and creative PIER plans are sought!

Applicants are encouraged to focus on areas, including but not limited to:

  • The composition of the project team and partnering institutions
  • The research environment—cultivating respectful, professional and accessible environments
  • Equitable and inclusive implementation of the research project
  • Partnering with underrepresented institutions and/or underserved communities

Listen to our recorded webinar on the PIER Plan Requirement

PIER Plan Requirements

  • The PIER Plan is provided as an Appendix to the Project Narrative and 1-3 pages in length.
  • The PIER Plan may leverage existing Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity and Accessibility (DEIA) plans, but the plan should be tailored to and integral to the proposed project.
  • The PIER plan should include at least one specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) milestone.
  • The PIER Plan progress relative to the milestone will be a reporting requirement.
  • The complexity and detail of PIER Plans are expected to increase with the size of the small business and the number of personnel supported.
  • Funds may be requested for execution of PIER Plan consistent with allowable cost guidelines for financial assistance.

Phase I Note

Since the Phase I award is of limited duration (6 – 12 months) and the award size is $200,000 to $250,000, it is expected that, one-page PIER Plans are suitable and will be most typical. The PIER Plan should be simple, focused, and relevant to the scope and duration of the award.

Phase II Note

Since the Phase II award period of performance and award size are greater than those of the Phase I award, the Phase II PIER Plans – while also simple and focused – are expected to be more complex than PIER Plans for a Phase I award. As a reminder, Phase II applicants are eligible to apply for a diversity supplement to support additional project personnel:

Review Criteria

As documented in our Funding Opportunity Announcements, DOE plans to make selections for awards from those applications evaluated as most meritorious based on external peer review against established merit review criteria. The first three review criteria are equally weighted and of greater weight than the fourth (PIER Plan) criterion: Quality and Efficacy of the Plan for Promoting Inclusive and Equitable Research.

Reviewers are prompted to consider the following elements of the PIER Plan in their evaluation of this criterion:

  • The appropriateness of the proposed PIER Plan for the size of the small business concern, proposed project and whether it is integrated into the proposed project.
  • Whether the PIER Plan is likely to lead to participation and mentoring of individuals from diverse backgrounds in the proposed project, including individuals historically underrepresented in the research community.
  • Whether the PIER Plan includes intentional partnering with, or benefits to, a disadvantaged and/or underrepresented community.
  • Whether the PIER Plan is likely to support a sense of belonging among project personnel.

Examples of Suitable Topics for PIER Plans

  • Mentoring underrepresented (UR) persons in R&D and entrepreneurship
  • Hiring UR intern(s)
  • Providing professional development training and leadership experience to UR persons integral to the project
  • Provide professional learning and educational opportunities to small business employees to develop awareness, knowledge, and strategies for supporting diverse and innovative work environments.
  • Implementing inclusive workplace practices
  • Partnering with a Minority Serving Institution such as an Historically Black College and University
  • Engagement with organizations in the project that represent underserved communities as a core element of their mission, including Minority Business Entities, and non-profit or community-based organizations
  • Inclusion of community advisory boards or other relevant steering committees to inform technology development.
  • Technology development with future community benefit and/or Energy Equity implications for disadvantaged communities, should the technology be successful, such as:
    • Reduction in household energy burdens
    • Reduction in environmental exposure
    • Improved energy infrastructure resilience
    • Future workforce impacts and opportunities

What constitutes an insufficient PIER Plan?

  • A copy of an institutional DEIA plan or listing standard institutional policies and procedures
  • A proposal for STEM K-12 or community outreach that is not integral to the proposed research
  • A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion plan that is already being carried out by the applicant or partners and is not related to or relevant to the proposed research

Questions for Applicants to Consider when developing a PIER Plan

  • How do the activities proposed in the PIER Plan enhance the scientific and/or technical merit of the proposed research project?
  • Are timelines or milestones for proposed activities and strategies appropriate?
  • Who are stakeholders informing the proposed PIER Plan and do they have the experience and perspectives that will support the implementation of the Plan?

Additional Resources and Relevant Information