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Small Business Innovation Research FAQs

What types of research does NIA fund in its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs?

Access NIA's section in the 2018 NIH SBIR-STTR Omnibus FOAs/Research Topics to view Small Business Research and Development (R&D) Program research topics appropriate for consideration by and applications to NIA.

What is the Difference Between SBIR and STTR?

Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR grants enable small businesses to explore their technological potential. SBIR grants serve to incentivize commercialization of aging and Alzheimer's disease-related products, services, and innovations. SBIR grants primarily fund the research and product development stage of bringing a product or service to market.

In contrast, the STTR program is focused primarily on the expansion of public/private-sector partnerships to include collaboration with non-profit research institutions, particularly research universities. A unique feature of STTR is a provision that allows applicant SBCs to appoint principal investigators who are primarily employed by the non-profit research partner. STTR projects require that the research-and-development effort be divided between the small business and the research partner.

For details about eligibility for SBIR/STTR grants, subcontracting requirements, and other terms of participation and award, see the Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs) listed below.

Multiple Phases of the SBIR-STTR Programs

In Phase I of the SBIR (R43 activity code) and STTR (R41 activity code) programs, research and development focus primarily on the development and feasibility-testing of prototypes (e.g., compounds, products, services).

In Phase II of the SBIR (R44 activity code) and STTR (R42 activity code) programs, small businesses perform additional research and development of prototypes. Phase II projects can also accommodate simple between-group comparisons to demonstrate hypothesized features-benefits of the prototype.

Another option is the NIH SBIR-STTR Fast-Track program. In the SBIR-STTR Fast-Track program, the applicant SBC submits Phase I (either STTR R41 or SBIR R43) and Phase II (either STTR R42 or SBIR R44) applications in the initial application. The NIH Fast-Track program provides for simultaneous peer and secondary review of both the Phase I and Phase II application.

The simultaneous review and consideration for funding affords Fast-Track applicants the opportunity to plan and subsequently stage the proposed research and development across both Phase I and Phase II and, if a meritorious Fast-Track application is approved for funding, allows the SBC to obtain funding for the Phase II research and development more quickly than it would were it to apply separately (and consecutively) for a Phase I and then a Phase II award.

Finally, Phase II SBIR-STTR awardees can compete for additional SBIR-STTR funding via the NIH SBIR-STTR Phase IIB program. In the Phase IIB program, SBCs propose and conduct additional research and development to facilitate and accelerate the capital-intensive steps that are required to transition SBIR-STTR Phase II projects to the commercialization stage. Phase IIB projects should feature partnerships between SBIR-STTR Phase II awardees and third-party investors and/or strategic partners.

How can I submit an application to your program?

NIA's Director of Small Business R&D Programs requests that before contacting NIA and submitting an application, potential applicants should: (1) access via Grants.gov the annual NIH SBIR and STTR Omnibus FOAs & the NIA-only SBIR-STTR AD and Translational Research FOAs; (2) review the NIH SBIR-STTR SF-424 application instructions and guidelines for completing the SBIR-STTR SF-424 application, and (3) access the Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT) system to determine if the proposal overlaps with an already-funded grant.

If there is no overlap, send an email to Dr. M-D Kerns with a one-page summary (see below). 

The one-page summary should address the following questions:

  1. The technology prototype to be developed;
  2. The technical innovation the development would represent and technical challenges to overcome;
  3. The specific aims;
  4. The value proposition and competition;
  5. The relevance of the R&D to NIA’s mission.

NIA's Small Business R&D Programs Program Officer:

Michael-David Alphonsus Rodriguez Richardson Kerns, M.M., M.S. Ph.D.
Email Michael-David Kerns, Ph.D.

What are the reviewers' qualifications, and how are they chosen to review?

Reviewers come from a wide range of organizations, including universities, nonprofit advocacy and research organizations, and small businesses. Scientific Review Administrators (SRAs) from NIH's Center for Scientific Review select qualified reviewers and oversee the review process. Each reviewer is selected according to her or his relevant expertise and experience in the research

How do I ensure my SBIR-STTR application will come to NIA?

After potential applicants interact with and learn whether the potential Small Business R&D would be appropriate for NIA, potential applicants are encouraged to request NIA assignment by NIH's Center for Scientific Review (CSR) in the PHS Assignment Request Form.

Note: The NIH Center for Scientific Review (CSR) has exclusive authority and discretion over all application receipt, referral, and peer-review decisions.

After the application is submitted, the applicant will be notified of the following: (1) that NIH received the application, (2) to which Institute(s) it was assigned, and (3) the name of and contact information for the Scientific Review Administrator (SRA) assigned to coordinate peer-review of the application. If the application is not assigned to NIA, applicants may contact the Office of Receipt and Referral in NIH's Center for Scientific Review to request reassignment to NIA.

Can I submit technology examples with my application?

Applicants who wish to submit supplemental materials should contact the Scientific Review Officer (SRO) assigned to oversee the primary review of their SBIR-STTR applications to discuss and request permission to submit any supplemental materials. In addition, applicants should refer to NIH's recently published Notice on Post-Submission Application Materials.

Who should submit a Fast Track application?

Small businesses who are most competitive for a Fast Track review are those that have completed some or part of the development of the prototype product, compound or service (or have some or part of the necessary product-development data) that needs further testing and development (in the Phase II project), and a strong Commercialization Plan and the capability—including financial resources and/or third-party investment, to move quickly to realize commercial aims or outcomes.

If my company is bought out by another small company, can I continue to be the Principal Investigator in Phase II of my project?

SBIR-STTR grants are awarded to the applicant small business concern (SBC) and not to the P.I. If working on any phase of an SBIR-STTR project and the SBC is acquired or if the business status of the SBC otherwise changes (in a fundamental way, namely, if ownership changes or the legal entity designation status changes), the project may be completed. However, if completing a Phase I and the company is acquired by a non-SBA-small-business eligible company, applicants will not eligible to submit a Phase II application.

Best advice is to contact NIA's Director of Small Business R&D Programs and the NIA Grants Management Specialist assigned to the award/grant.

How do I request a no-cost extension?

Send an e-mail to the NIA Grants Management Specialist and NIA Program Officer assigned to your grant that provides a detailed justification for the no-cost extension.

Do you handle money-related issues for my grant?

The NIA Small Business R&D Director addresses all Small Business R&D Program-related questions and policies, including questions about funding and reporting requirements. The NIA Program Officer assigned to your grant addresses the scientific-related questions and issues. Finally, the grants-management specialist assigned to your grant fields all money and business-related questions.

Return to the NIA Small Business Main Page.