Some free programs are available to help with proposal writing, especially for early investigators and underrepresented minority inventors. Several of these programs are described below. There are also some companies you can hire to help with writing proposals.
Applicant Assistance Program – The AAP helps small businesses write and submit Phase I grant proposals, providing coaching and guidance on application needs assessment, preparation, review, copy editing, and submission. The program is ten weeks long and involves completing specific tasks. You work with an assigned coach via weekly phone calls plus emails. The average participation per week is around 15 to 20 hours. The AAP particularly aims to help underrepresented groups—including women, minorities, and certain states—achieve SBIR/STTR funding. You must be a business with no previous NIH funding. The application deadlines for the AAP are ahead of each proposal deadline. It is a short, simple application. Around a third of applications are accepted.
A Small Business Transition Grant (RFA-CA-21-001) – This is for early investigators looking to transition out of academia into industry. The scientist transitions after Phase I into a small business concern. The purpose is to address the challenge of creating the right team that has the expertise to develop the early-stage technology, provide funding for it, and provide entrepreneurial and technical mentoring and product development support. Participation in I-Corps, an immersive learning program to support transfer from the lab to market, may be required.
Research and Entrepreneurial Development Immersion Program (REDI) – This is a National Institute for Aging (NIA) program that provides training in biotech entrepreneurship to boost university startups and provide more early career opportunities for scientists researching diseases related to aging.
Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program – Organizations receiving FAST awards may be another source of support and advice for early entrepreneurs. State or regional organizations receive NIH funding to produce local programs to increase the number of SBIR/STTR proposals and awards in that area. Some may also offer guidance with proposals. Check the program information to find out if there is a FAST recipient organization in your area. Look for their bootcamps, programs for first-time grant writers that provide you with feedback on one-page summaries of your technology or your specific aims.
SBIR.gov Find Local Assistance – Search this database to find assistance with the SBIR/STTR process in your area as well as other resources, which may include training, mentoring, networking opportunities, and alternative funding sources.
Case Name: Monique Aster, PhD
Scenario, Part 3
Monique Aster <email@example.com>
Thank you for your feedback on my specific aims and for letting me know my project fits your institute’s mission well. I looked at the Application Assistance Program (AAP), and I think it would be very helpful. It looks like I qualify since I am starting a woman-owned business, this will be my first SBIR, and I have enough time before I want to submit to complete the ten-week program. The main question I have now is whether I should set up and register my business before I apply or wait to see if I get the AAP and can get their help with that.
Monique Aster, PhD
Jane Stevens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
You must establish your business before applying for the AAP. Start by registering with Login.gov, then register with System for Award Management (SAM) and get the nine-digit Unique Entity Identifier (UEI). The UEI replaced the DUNS number in April 2022. Be sure to also get your federal tax ID number and complete the SBA company registry. You can obtain the registrations related to NIH awards (Grants.gov, ERA Commons) later. You can find links for all these registrations on the SBIR/STTR infographic.
Here are a few tips to help you focus your AAP application. Make sure the abstract clearly describes an unmet need and how the technology meets that need. Include a realistic description of its commercial potential. Having some preliminary data helps too.
Jane Stevens, PhD
SBIR Office, NIH Agency