Answer: SBIR/STTR Phase I proposals are often funded earlier than the businesses would be funded by investors because the program is interested in developing innovative ideas, which involves taking some risks. Phase I may involve pulling together the technology as a product. If the concept is still just science and there isn’t a clearly identified product for Phase I, however, it is not ready to be an SBIR. A mistake that junior investigators may make is to drift away from the product in the application. The program officer can offer feedback on the specific aims page prior to submission of the full proposal and let you know if it is a timely submission.
FAQ : What funding opportunities are available?
The government issues funding opportunity announcements FOAs that describe details that vary by the government agency. They are published on each agency’s website. Examples include:
- Omnibus Solicitation, which is one of the funding opportunity announcements (FOAs), describes the NIH SBIR/STTR grant funding opportunities for support of small businesses having technical ability to do research that meets the missions of their agencies on the topics described in the document. The NSF is interested in innovative science with the potential for commercial success and does not have specific products they wish to support.
- The government agencies, including the NIH, also contract with businesses, both small and large, for produce a specific product that they need. See NIH Grants & Funding: Contracts: The list of potential SBIR contracts is published annually; see SBIR Contracts.
Be sure to read FOA’s carefully to find the following information:
- Does the institute or center you feel is a good fit for your research participate in this FOA?
- Note any eligibility and budget restrictions.
- Understand the responsiveness criteria, application instructions, and review criteria.
- Note the name of the FOA’s program official and contact them regarding program questions.
- Contact the FOA’s grants management specialist assigned with questions about budget or grants policy.
FAQ: Who are the different officials that are involved in an SBIR proposal (PO? SRO? GMO?) and what do they do? Which one do I contact if I’m just getting started with an SBIR?
There are three groups of officials involved in the NIH Extramural Team. Contact the first group first:
- Program Officials/Officers – Manage porfolios of grants – provide programmatic, scientific, and technical advice. Contact them prior to submitting your proposal.
- Scientific Review Officers – Responsible for review of proposals – provide programmatic, scientific, and technical review.
- Grants Management Specialist – Responsible for completion of business management requirements of a funded grant, evaluate applications for compliance with administrative content, negotiate and prepares grant awards, help you interpret administrative policy.
Understand NIH Staff Roles – Further details on the above NIH staff role descriptions on NIH website.
Tips for a Successful SBIR Proposal
- Review funding opportunity announcements FOA.
- Review sample SBIR applications (look under “small business grants”).
- Do your homework on NIH-funded applications using their database and search tool, NIHRePorter.
- Talk to an NIH program official over a month before submitting to discuss your aims and get feedback. Search program managers or RePorter/Matchmaker.
- Describe a significant, important problem that your product will solve.
- Make a convincing case for the commercial potential and/or societal impact.
- Make sure your test of feasibility is adequate.
- Be sure to show innovation.