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How do I know if NIH is interested in funding my project?

November 12th, 2015 | by Andrea Johanson

like-me-note-275x275The NIH is one of the ‘easier’ federal agencies to apply to because every year it issues an Omnibus Solicitation, requesting investigator-initiated topics. This means that rather than telling you exactly which projects they will fund, the NIH asks you, the investigator, to come up with the ideas. As long as these ideas are related to Human Health, have the requisite level of Technological Innovation and Commercial Potential, they may be appropriate for SBIR/STTR.

However, you still need to do some homework to make sure your idea fits within the research interests of the NIH’s Institutes and Centers. So before you put a lot of work into developing your proposal, there are a couple of things you can do:

  1. Search NIH’s RePORTER Database
    RePORTER is an online searchable database tool that allows users to search all previously and currently NIH-funded research projects. You can use keywords to search for projects, view their abstracts, and determine whether NIH has previously-funded projects in your research topic, and which NIH Institutes might be most likely to fund particular projects.
    You can use the drop-down menus to restrict your search by funding mechanism (e.g. SBIR/STTR or other NIH funding mechanism such as R01, R21 etc.), by state, by year, by Principal Investigator etc. Identify the Institutes and Centers that funded projects (both Phase I and Phase II) in your area.
  2. Check the SBIR/STTR Program Descriptions and Research Topics Document
    Another good place to start is to look at the SBIR/STTR “Program Descriptions and Research Topics.” This can be downloaded as a pdf or Word document from here. The document lists all of the Institutes and Centers at NIH and outlines their areas of interest. It also gives the contact details for all of the program staff in each institute.
  3. Speak with Program Staff at NIH
    Once you think you have identified an Institute within the NIH that might be appropriate for your research idea, NIH strongly encourages you to contact the relevant Program Staff to discuss your idea with them. Some Institutes have several program staff, responsible for different areas, so make sure you find the one most appropriate for your project. BBCetc recommends that you first send an email to the program staff listed, and ask to follow up with a phone call. If your proposal might be a possible fit in more than one NIH institute, you can contact program staff from both Institutes.

You can also ask Program Staff whether your idea fits the goals of the Institute, the scope of your Phase I and Phase II aims are appropriate for SBIR/STTR, and/or your project budget can exceed the published guidelines of $150 K for a Phase I and $1 million for a Phase II.

As always, let us know if we can help –, 734-930-9741.


Andrea Johanson, PhD, is BBCetc’s NIH expert.

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What do a federal grant and robot cockroaches have in common?

October 14th, 2015 | by Lisa Kurek

A recent essay by Lisa Kurek, BBCetc Managing Partner, NPR affiliate Michigan Radio’s “The Next Idea.” All it takes is one new innovation or one new successful company to change the economic fortunes of an entire city or region. More often though, it’s the cumulative effect of many new innovations and successful companies that create

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Build Your Team to Build Your Company

September 11th, 2015 | by Lisa Kurek

At BBCetc, we love the passion and intensity of entrepreneurs who are developing amazing technologies even as we try to harness their enthusiasm and keep their feet planted on the ground. Part of our job is helping them understand that participating SBIR/STTR agencies are seeking more than a great idea; they want to see a

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Start Now to Be “Just in Time”

July 15th, 2015 | by Kris Bergman

There is always a flurry of questions from our clients who submit SBIR/STTR proposals and then receive “Just-in-Time” (JIT) requests. Just-in-time refers to information an agency asks you to send after your application goes through the initial review process and is being considered for possible funding. This procedure reduces the time to award while ensuring

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Be sure to have a vision for your project

June 18th, 2015 | by Michael Kurek

Over the next few months, many of our readers will be considering and/or busily preparing SBIR/STTR proposals for various agency solicitations that are or will be opening. In preparation for its upcoming SBIR solicitation, the USDA presented a webinar on program basics that included some good advice for those pursuing Phase I SBIR/STTR grants across all the

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If You Build it, will They REALLY Come?

May 29th, 2015 | by Michael Kurek

The review criteria for successful SBIR/STTR proposals typically emphasize an innovative technology solving a significant problem in the market. What this means is that, to be successful, companies must present: A sound technical approach, in tandem with, A credible commercialization strategy Too often, entrepreneurs and scientists involved with early-stage companies focus their proposal development energies

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April 27th, 2015 | by Becky Aistrup

(Re-running this timely post that bears repeating…) The Dept. of Defense issued its 2015.2 SBIR pre-solicitation on April 24, opening a 30-window during which you can talk directly to its Technical Points of Contact (TPOCs), before proposals may be submitted beginning on May 26. Why bother talking to a TPOC? Here’s why: The TPOC is

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Tips for Resubmission of Unfunded NSF Phase I Proposals

April 9th, 2015 | by Michael Kurek

Unlike Phase II proposals, NSF allows resubmission of unfunded Phase I SBIR and STTR proposals…but only if “substantial revisions” have been made in response to the reviewer comments. The current solicitations (SBIR closes June 16; STTR closes June 18, 2015) instruct applicants who are preparing a resubmission to include a one-page Supplementary Document entitled “Resubmission

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Sub-award or Fee for Service: Know the Difference for Your SBIR/STTR Proposal

March 2nd, 2015 | by Andrea Johanson

Whether they’re preparing an SBIR/STTR proposal for the April 5 NIH deadline or for another agency, one of the most confusing issues that companies face in preparing their project budgets is whether a relationship with an external organization should be a sub-award or a fee-for-service. It’s common in an SBIR, and required for an STTR,

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Start Your SBIR/STTR Budget by Knowing the Basics

February 9th, 2015 | by Kris Bergman

What’s your opinion? Does your SBIR/STTR project drive the budget or does the budget drive the project? Yes, this is a trick question. Actually, an appropriate budget is one that is in harmony with the proposed work, serving as an important guidepost in assessing a project’s feasibility in light of company resources. So the answer

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