Most entrepreneurs haven't. SBIR grants are one of the few funding opportunities the federal government provides for small businesses. The majority of federal grants are targeted toward nonprofits and educational institutions. But SBIR and STTR grants are your chance to use federal tax dollars to advance your company.
SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) and STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) programs provide grants to small businesses for the development of technologies that have commercial potential. These programs address three phases of development: Phase 1 (feasibility study), Phase II (research & development) and Phase III (commercialization).
With more than $1.9 billion of annual grants on the line, competition for SBIR and STTR funding is fierce and there is no guarantee of success. You could invest a lot time preparing an application for a cutting-edge concept and still walk away empty-handed. On the other hand, there are SBIR grant writing tips you can employ to increase the odds of a positive response to your request.
- Focus your application. One of the first things SBIR/STTR grant committees look for is focus. Ambition may be rewarded in the marketplace, but being extreme ambitious will work against you here. A Phase I application with large number of what are called "Specific Aims" is a red flag. Focus your Phase I requests on two or three Specific Aims.
- Avoid "Fast Track" applications. Fast Track applications eliminate the funding gap between Phase I and Phase II requests. They may be quicker, but they reduce the odds that your request will be approved because the application process is much more involved and usually requires a commercialization partner at the earliest stage of the process.
- Right-size your funding request. Knowing how long to apply for funding and how much to apply for each year can be a factor in your application's success. For Phase I grant applications, it's a good idea to apply for two years of funding for up to $250,000 per year.
- Be prepared for follow-up. Grants require comprehensive follow-up activities and SBIR/STTR grants are no exception. The grant committee expects that the money you receive will be spent according to the purpose described in the application – and nothing else. You'll need to keep detailed records throughout each phase to apply for funding in subsequent phases. You'll also need to be prepared to provide a list of specific information at the time you are awarded the grant.