Tips on Proposal Writing
- Start writing your proposal early.
- Involve other people from the start, especially those with more experience, so they have time to offer guidance. Ask other people to read your application, ideally those who are not close to the project and can give a fresh perspective.
- Identify yourself in your Commons profile as a new investigator or early-stage investigator (ESI) for potential special consideration. Your status as a new or early-stage investigator may be considered during the SBIR review or funding process. See Information for New Investigators for more information.
- If you go into a subject area that is new to you, make sure you have someone on your team who is an expert in that topic.
- Don’t let the monetary limit on the budget deter you from submitting a proposal. Many funded projects exceed these limits. However, you do have to explain why you need the additional money. Check the Find Funding page to learn what topics can exceed the budget limit.
- A smaller budget does not give you a better chance of funding. Budget for what you need. See Develop Your Budget.
- Pay attention to the specific instructions in the funding opportunity announcement you are following.
- Keep the reviewers in mind. Write in language they will understand.
Be sure to take advantage of sample SBIR/STTR applications available on the NIH website:
- National Cancer Institute SBIR & STTR Sample Applications
- National Institute on Aging Small Business Sample Applications
- National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Sample Applications and More – Scroll down to see sample applications or small business grants.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse Sample Applications – These are SBIR and STTR applications.
External Resources on Writing SBIR Proposals
SBIR/STTR Online Tutorials – Eighteen free tutorials cover the SBIR/STTR application process for federal funding. There are tutorials for beginners that are introductory and broad and tutorials for experienced investigators that are detailed and specific.
SBIR/STTR Resources – A comprehensive suite of resources to support small businesses in applying for grants and commercializing their technologies.
Writing a Good Commercialization Plan – Suggestions for SBIR/STTR applicants.
8 Tips for Writing a Winning SBIR and 10 Tips for a Competitive SBIR or STTR Proposal – Two sets of different tips that cover what to know before starting and during the writing of your proposal, by University Lab Partners. Rev. September 29, 2021, and August 18, 2021.
5 Tips for Winning NIH SBIR Proposals – By Brian Walsh, Washington Center for Technology Commercialization. October 22, 2020.
Login.gov account – If it has been a while since you submitted a proposal, you will need to establish your Login.gov account. Two-factor log-in is now required by all users instead of logging in via ERA.gov. See more details.
FAQ: Who should be the principle investigator (PI) on an SBIR/STTR proposal?
Answer: The PI needs to have the skills to lead and oversee the project. Although someone without an advanced science degree can be the PI, the team’s ability to do the work is one of the factors reviewers rate on a proposal. It may result in a lower score if evidence of their ability to provide project oversight is not well-documented. The PI must be employed by the business.
SBIR/STTR FAQs – View answers to many FAQs on NIH SBIR/STTR proposals.