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SBIR/STTR Budgets Provide the Numbers; the Budget Justification Tells the Story

December 6th, 2017 | by Kris Bergman

As you prepare your NIH or NSF budget, you will also need to prepare a detailed budget justification.  This is an important and mostly underutilized part of the proposal. Numbers on a spreadsheet are only half of the story. The reviewers need to see WHY you are spending money on the things in your budget and if what you are requesting is reasonable in comparison to the work you are proposing to do. Here are four things to consider as you approach your budget and justification:

  • Identify – What labor, supplies, partners or collaborators, travel, etc. will be needed?
  • Itemize – Without going overboard, provide enough details to allow the reviewer to understand what is to be purchased
  • Estimate – Include an estimate of costs based on prior research or experience
  • Justify – Why this money is needed; provide a reason for each category of costs.

The most important things to remember are:

  1. This is the only place in the proposal that really tells the reviewers who is doing what, and where they are doing it.  It should be a valuable overview of the way the project is set up. It helps answer a lot of questions reviewers have about your company.
  2. This is not where you justify the project and talk about how great it is. That information should be in the Research Strategy. The Budget Justification is where you explain in narrative detail how you will spend the money.
  3. Every line item (including project personnel) in the project budget should have a subheading and corresponding paragraph in the Budget Justification. Keeping the order, numbering and headings as in the budget spreadsheet will help you to do this.
  4. Include all justification information for all years of a multi-year project in the same document.
  5. List all Company Personnel and include the following information in a short paragraph for each:

i. Employment status – Where are they currently employed?  Will this change on receipt of award?  Will they be hired by the company on receipt of award?
ii. Project role – What will their project role/title be, and what will they do? This is not the place to add a lot of background information about the individual and how great they are; that information belongs in the Biosketch.
iii. % Effort – Express in terms of Calendar Months, e.g. 50% effort on a 6-month project = 3 calendar months.
iv. Total salary/payment in $
v. Again: This is not where you add lots of biographical information for your team — that goes in the Biosketches!

6. If the application includes a subaward/consortium budget, a separate budget and budget justification must be submitted for each subaward.
7. The Budget Justification should be a stand-alone document to give the reviewers an overview of the budget without having to refer to the budget spreadsheets. BBCetc can help you prepare your budget and budget justification and guide you through the proposal preparation process. Fill out and submit our online Assessment Form to explore working with us.


Kris Bergman is a BBCetc Managing Partner and chief consultant on grants and contracts management.

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How to Connect with Prime Contractors: An Interview with Lockheed Martin

October 31st, 2017 | by Jayne Berkaw

If you are planning to or have already submitted an SBIR/STTR proposal to the Dept. of Defense you probably have a keen interest in learning how to connect with prime contractors. Primes provide small businesses with various assistance during different phases of their SBIR/STTR projects; including supporting technology requirements, evaluation, co-development, and insertion into larger

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Using the DoD Topic Description to Do Your Homework

September 11th, 2017 | by Becky Aistrup

If you are interested in winning SBIR/STTR proposals from Department of Defense, you probably know the importance of talking to the Technical Point of Contact (TPOC) or Topic Author during the “open period” before you write your proposal*. You will want to ask any questions or details about the topic itself, and use the discussion

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Writing your NIH SBIR/STTR Specific Aims: Impact is Key!

July 25th, 2017 | by Andrea Johanson

We have found that the best first step in developing an SBIR/STTR proposal is to draft the one-page Specific Aims document. This section is the most important page in your proposal. In it you should state concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcomes, including the impact that the results of

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Tips on Writing Your Commercialization Plan

June 22nd, 2017 | by Michael Kurek

Martin Zwilling, CEO of Startup Professionals, is one of my favorite bloggers on wide-ranging topics of interest to entrepreneurs and small business owners. One of his recent articles “13 Red Flags to Avoid in Your Investor Funding Pitch” contains solid advice for your SBIR/STTR commercialization plan, as well as your investor pitch. In addition to

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The Support Provider’s Dilemma: Is this Person Coachable?

May 24th, 2017 | by Jayne Berkaw

If you’re an entrepreneur seeking to improve your chances of winning SBIR/STTR funding for your technology, ask yourself this: Are you coachable? According to author and international consultant, Timothy R. Clark, “Coachability is the willingness to be corrected and to act on that correction. When we are coachable, we are prepared to be wrong. We

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Who Needs SBIR/STTR Training Anyway??

April 20th, 2017 | by Jayne Berkaw

One of the first things we advise our clients or prospective clients to do as they look forward to preparing a competitive SBIR/STTR proposal is to give themselves a leg up by starting off with some training. Lots of people don’t think they need training before they embark on the complex proposal preparation process. Maybe

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Top 10 Brilliant Ideas and Stupid Mistakes: Secrets of Phase II Proposal Success

March 15th, 2017 | by Lisa Kurek

Last month, we outlined our top 10 dos and don’ts for getting your Phase I NIH proposal in shape and ready to submit before the April 5 deadline. This month we continue that theme by presenting what we have determined, over years of reviewing proposals, to be our top 10 brilliant ideas or stupid mistakes

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10 Dos and Don’ts for Your Phase I NIH Proposal

February 2nd, 2017 | by Lisa Kurek

If you’re planning to submit for the April 5 NIH SBIR/STTR deadline, now is the time to start laying out the steps you’ll need to take to get your polished, compelling Phase I proposal submitted before the deadline. Over the years, BBCetc consultants have reviewed a great many NIH proposals and accumulated a long list

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Match Your Product to Agency Mission for SBIR/STTR Success

December 9th, 2016 | by Michael Kurek

Finding the best agency to fund your new product idea can be frustrating. You’ve identified a market need and know exactly how to solve the problem of your preferred target customer. The only catch is that the agency does not share your enthusiasm for the proposed product or its market potential. How to proceed? First

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