How to apply
Learn about our recommended Phase I application timeline, how to prepare your proposal, and what to expect once you submit.
Here are the criteria we use to determine which companies to fund:
- Game-changing: Your innovation could make a difference to people worldwide or revolutionize an industry.
- High-risk: Your product is based on unproven technology that needs further testing (and funding for that testing).
- Market pull: You have evidence that your product or service could meet an important, unmet need for your customers.
- Scale: If you successfully bring your product or service to market, it could form the foundation for a scalable business and make a large impact in your target market.
Check out our portfolio to see what companies we’ve recently funded.
Technology topic areas
Review this list of technology topic areas (sectors we fund) to see which best aligns with your company’s work. If none of the technology topic areas quite reflects your work, but you feel your company is otherwise a good fit, you can apply under the Other Topics (OT) category.
Download a searchable PDF of the full list of technology topic areas that also includes descriptions of the subtopics.
Make sure your company meets these eligibility requirements
- Your company must be a small business (fewer than 500 employees) located in the United States.
- At least 50% of your company’s equity must be owned by U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and all funded work needs to take place in the United States (including work done by consultants and contractors).
- The project’s principal investigator (tech lead) must be legally employed at least 20 hours a week by the company seeking funding. The PI doesn’t need any advanced degrees.
- The principal investigator needs to commit to at least one month (173 hours) of work on a funded project per six months of project duration.
For more detailed information, check out our Eligibility Guide.
You can send an executive summary to one of our program directors to discuss your work and get feedback. Complete our short executive summary form — an SBIR/STTR program director will send you written feedback within a week or two.
Processing time: Up to three weeks
You MUST register to do business with the U.S. government through System for Award Management (SAM). When you register, you’ll have to share bank account information. This registration process is free and takes only 10-15 minutes to initiate, but can take up to three weeks to complete. An active SAM.gov registration is needed to create a FastLane account and submit a proposal to NSF. Registration expires after one year.
Read the SAM Quick Start Guide.
90 days before
the deadline Call for proposals (solicitation) released March 2018.
The solicitation has information on awards (number available and award amounts), tips for preparing your proposal, and more.
If you’re looking to have an academic, nonprofit, or federally funded research institution complete at least 30% of your work, please review the STTR solicitation. Otherwise, view the SBIR solicitation.
If you’re applying for STTR funding, you must partner with an academic, non-profit, or federally funded research institution. If you’re funded through STTR, at least 30% of your funding must go to your research partner and at least 40% must go to your company.
If you’re applying for SBIR funding, at least 2/3 of the funding you receive must go to your company.
60 days before
If your company hasn’t worked with the government before, you’ll need to register with these systems. You MUST have completed your SAM registration BEFORE you can begin entering your proposal in FastLane. Start as soon as possible!
Processing time: Up to five business days
A DUNS number is a unique, nine-digit number that identifies each physical location of your company. You’ll need one in order to receive government funding. Because you’re applying for a DUNS number for government funding, processing time should take about five business days.
Processing time: Up to three weeks
You MUST register to do business with the U.S. government through System for Award Management (SAM). When you register, you’ll have to share bank account information. This registration process is free and takes only 10-15 minutes to initiate, but can take up to three weeks to complete. An active SAM.gov registration is needed to create a FastLane account and submit a proposal to NSF. Registration expires after one year. Read the SAM Quick Start Guide.
Processing time: Up to 48 hours
Before applying, you need to register your principal investigator and company in FastLane. Within 48 hours, you’ll get a confirmation email with login instructions. We recommend you explore FastLane before submitting your application.
Finally, you need to register with the SBIR Company Registry (operated by the Small Business Administration). Post-registration, you’ll receive a Business Concern Control ID (SBC ID), which you’ll need to include in your FastLane application.
Once you’ve reviewed the solicitation, start preparing your Phase I application in FastLane.
June 14, 2018 Applications due by 5:00 p.m. in your local time zone. Note: Your time zone is based on your company's address as you listed it in your application.
1-3 months after
the deadline Applications undergo panel and merit reviews.
4-6 months after
the deadline We'll notify you whether your proposal is accepted or declined.
5-6 months after
the deadline If your proposal is accepted, you'll receive funding of up to $225,000.