What is the application process for an SBIR / STTR proposal?

The application process for an SBIR grant goes something like this.

  • Registration: First, you must register your team on the SBIR website. This is a process that can take up to two months, so don't do it the day before the application is due!
  • Develop an idea: Then, you need to develop an idea that you will pitch to an SBIR sponsor point-of-contact.
  • Talk to a sponsor point-of-contact at one of the 11 participating agencies. This is the single most important (and non-intuitive step). Rather than reading the solicitations and submitting a grant, it is far more effective to identify the relevant sponsors who put out requests for proposals and then subsequently fund them to understand what their areas of interests are, and what they are looking to see in an SBIR proprosal. Treat this like any primary market research or business development interaction. You are there to learn what they need, not sell your idea.
  • Pick a solicitation. SBIR solicitations are released a few times a year. Find the solicitation that best matches your research interests. In some cases, the solicitation might be developed by your sponsor point-of-contact after a face to face discussion with you - in effect you might well influence how the solicitations are written via your discussions with the sponsor. This is why the step before this is the #1 most effective way to win an SBIR contract.
  • Write the proposal: Now you have to write the actual proposal and submit it to the system for review. Do not underestimate the time and effort taken to write a really good proposal. You get what you put into it! This is not a 4 hour writing assignment. Most people take a few weeks to write, review and fine tune the application.
  • Submit the proposal: Submitting the proposal on line is the next step. Note that the submission web platform often gets inundated on the day the proposals are due. Plan for success and submit a day early, so you will not miss the submission deadline due to IT problems.
  • Wait for the review process: After you submit the proposal, it will be reviewed by SBA personnel. This can take several weeks to months.
  • Notification: You will be notified of your proposal status weeks to months after submission.
  • Contracting: If you are notified that you won an SBIR award, congratulations! Now you will need to go through the paperwork to get the contract in place with your contracting agency. This process can take another few weeks.

The entire process can take a year or more, so you need to plan for success well in advance of your need for grant funding. 

Visit the SBIR.gov website to learn more.


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