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5 Tips for Applying for NASA SBIR/STTR Funding

Right now, small businesses are preparing proposals in response to NASA’s 2022 SBIR/STTR solicitations (SBIR = Small Business Innovation Research; STTR = Small Business Technology Transfer). SBIR/STTR allows U.S. companies with fewer than 500 employees to pursue their innovative R&D while answering the federal government’s interests.

Today’s post offers some valuable advice to those preparing SBIR/STTR proposals, which are due to NASA by March 9 at 5:00 pm EST.

Tip 1: Focus Primarily on the Subtopic

Both the SBIR and the STTR solicitations (issued as separate documents this year) group NASA’s many subtopics into nearly two dozen focus areas, all of which are described in Chapter 9. As you write your proposal, focus on the subtopic as your priority. It is critically important that the proposal be closely aligned with the subtopic, particularly the “State of the Art and Critical Gaps” and the “Relevance/Science Traceability” sections. Make sure you have fully covered the subtopic before discussing the broader focus area.

BTW, you can submit more than one proposal to NASA, but each response must be unique. As noted during the Q&A of NASA’s Dissecting the Solicitations Webinar, NASA cannot fund duplicate work. Submitting two proposals for two different technologies is fine, but keep in mind that listing the same PI in both will raise concerns of time management and commitment to both projects’ success.

Tip 2: Read Chapters 1–8 of the Solicitation Very Carefully

If you’re new to government proposals, the solicitation book may be intimidating. With all the acronyms, it might feel like you are swimming in alphabet soup. But don’t give up. Read the entire solicitation document to ensure you abide by all the requirements. (Obviously, you don’t have to read subtopics and focus areas in Chapter 9 that aren’t your focus.)

Tip 3: Start the Required Registrations ASAP

In order to submit an SBIR/STTR proposal to NASA, you must have registered with the System for Award Management at SAM.gov and received a Unique Entity ID (UEI). Additionally, you will need to register with the Small Business Administration (SBA) Firm Registry (https://www.sbir.gov/registration).

You will submit your proposal through NASA’s Submissions Electronic Handbook (EHB), preferably using the Google Chrome web browser. There are certifications, including but not limited to, the Firm Certification, Proposal Certification and Life Cycle Certification that must be completed in the EHB for the Phase I application.

Don’t save these registrations for the end. Start on them now.

Tip 4: Request TABA Funding

Technical and Business Assistance (TABA) funding is a supplement to the R&D effort. For Phase I, awardees can receive up to $6,500 in additional TABA funding to hire a qualified third-party vendor, such as Fuentek, for assistance. Leveraging TABA allows your team to focus on the R&D that needs to be accomplished during the 6 or 13 months of the SBIR or STTR Phase I, respectively.

TABA funds can be used to understand market and intellectual property (IP) issues as well as to strengthen the commercialization portion of the Phase II proposal, which is due at the end of Phase I. Check out this blog post for more information about TABA.

According to NASA, only 15% of firms take advantage of the TABA resource, so don’t miss out on this opportunity. Include your request for the TABA supplement in your Phase I proposal and consider using Fuentek as your TABA vendor. With extensive NASA experience, we’re well positioned to be a valuable partner.

Tip 5: Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to Submit Your Proposal

According to NASA, 78% of firms wait until the due date to submit their forms. This is extremely risky. Bandwidth limitations, slow Internet uploads, and an untimely server refresh can prevent on-time proposal submission. And there are no extensions or late submissions allowed.

But you can submit early and make changes up until the deadline; you just have to complete your endorsement and certify resubmission after any changes have been made.

Why Even Apply for SBIR/STTR Funding?

One major advantage of the SBIR/STTR program is that the funds are non-dilutive. That is, unlike other investors, NASA doesn’t take a stake in the company when awarding SBIR/STTR funding. For the small business owner, that is a big plus. So, if your firm specializes in innovative, disruptive technologies and you haven’t pursued SBIR/STTR funding—for NASA or other agencies—you should definitely look into it. For more information, contact the Small Business Administration at https://www.sbir.gov/.