STTR/SBIR Proposal Assistance Resources

In the world of startup funding, resources and donors abound. Securing a piece of this abundance, however, is quite a tricky prospect. Two such funding programs, the STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer Research) and SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research), are operated by the U.S. government agencies such as NIH, DOD and others. These initiatives allot federal research money to small businesses with the intent of funding scientific research directed towards commercialization efforts. Previously, we’ve covered the basics of these programs in a series (hyperlink: https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/techtransfer/2014/11/helping-our-faculty-navigate-the-world-of-sbirs-sttrs/) of posts (hyperlink: https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/techtransfer/2016/12/sbir-funding-for-your-start-up/) on our blog (hyperlink: https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/techtransfer/2017/01/sttr-funding-for-your-start-up/). This article will dive deeper into the STTR/SBIR application process, highlighting various resources available to researchers who wish to utilize such funding in their own startup efforts.

Likely the most useful resources provided by federal agencies are the sample proposals offered by the HHS (hyperlink: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/grants-contracts/sample-applications#r43r44) and DOD (hyperlink: https://www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/sb/resources/sample-proposals.shtml). These collections feature the full text of successful applications that have been submitted to the respective departments over the past few years. Biomedical researchers/entrepreneurs at Emory would find the HHS directory particularly useful, as many of their samples pertain to drug discovery and novel methods for disease treatment and detection. Certain applications come with their summary statements as well, which are drafted by agency employees and in some ways are even more helpful than the applications themselves. These summary statements start with an overview of the applicant’s research goals, contextualized by their target problem, and then detail the extent of the research’s public health impact. The real insight, however, is provided in the latter half of the document, during which three agency reviewers comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the project’s significance, investigators, innovation, approach, and environment. This can help researchers understand what the HHS is looking for in the projects they support, and the sorts of goals and accomplishments the HHS finds realistic, compelling, and impressive.

Even when agencies lack such a level of transparency, their SBIR/STTR webpages still provide useful information. NASA (hyperlink: https://sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov/abstract_archives), NOAA (hyperlink: https://techpartnerships.noaa.gov/SBIR/Past-Awards-Solicitations), and the USDA (hyperlink: https://nifa.usda.gov/abstracts-funded-sbir-projects) provide abstracts for the projects that receive awards each year and the NSF (hyperlink: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLGhBP1C7iCOkPp8yv2I3ZGk16LiMIiikb) and NASA (hyperlink: https://sbir.gsfc.nasa.gov/success-stories) offer journalistic coverage of successful candidates. The SBIR/STTR website (hyperlink: https://www.sbir.gov/) itself hosts a long-form tutorial (hyperlink: https://www.sbir.gov/tutorials), which one can view in video or text mode and which covers the ins and outs of submitting an SBIR/STTR application. Some of the topics explicated in this tutorial series are registration requirements, SBIR data rights, cybersecurity, and preparing a proposal. One section is entirely dedicated to university partnerships with small businesses, which again would be particularly useful for Emory-affiliated researchers looking to commercialize their work. Though broader, the SBIR/STTR website is also a good starting point in that it centralizes a lot of information. It also features a registry (hyperlink: https://www.sbir.gov/sbirsearch/firm/all) of every company to have secured an SBIR/STTR award.

One of the most useful sections of this generic SBIR webpage is its local services database (hyperlink: https://www.sbir.gov/state_services?state=105816), which furthers the work done in the State Service Providers section of the online tutorial. Viewed in map or list form, this section details a collection of offices/workspaces where small business owners can find various forms of assistance. For instance, in Georgia, entrepreneurs can access help from SBA Growth Accelerators and State Contacts. SBA Growth Accelerators are SBA-endorsed co-working spaces that allow local entrepreneurs to network and form partnerships. This could provide growing startups with a forum to test ideas and connect with other SBIR/STTR applicants or previous awardees. State Contacts are directly affiliated with state and federal programs that support entrepreneurial growth. These offices provide direct assistance and council in the application process. Furthermore, Georgia has a state-funded SBIR Assistance Program, managed by the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), meant to help Georgia-based businesses win SBIR/STTR grants, which one can explore further through one of these contacts. These physical locations provide material resources to startups interested in the SBIR/STTR programs and well-complement the digital resources that populate our various federal websites. All in all, budding researchers and entrepreneurs have a comprehensive set of options in seeking assistance for the SBIR/STTR process.