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How to apply

Learn about our recommended Phase I application timeline, how to prepare your proposal, and what to expect once you submit. Details for the next June 2019 deadline will be posted in March 2019 in the upcoming solicitations.

  1. anytime before
    the deadline
    1. Criteria

      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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. Processing time: Up to one month

      You MUST register to do business with the U.S. government through System for Award Management (SAM). The SAM registration process is free, but can take up to one month to complete. You MUST have an active registration number to register with NSF and submit a proposal through FastLane. Registration expires after one year.

  2. 90 days before
    the deadline
    Call for proposals (solicitation) released.
    1. We’re not currently accepting proposal applications, but you can check out our most recent SBIR solicitation or STTR solicitation to get a sense of what they cover. Our next solicitation will be released in March 2019.

      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.

      STTR Funding

      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.

      SBIR Funding

      If you’re applying for SBIR funding, at least 2/3 of the funding you receive must go to your company.

  3. 60 days before
    the deadline
    1. 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!

      Dun and Bradstreet (DUNS number)

      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.

      System for Award Management (SAM)

      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 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. (Online Grant Management for the NSF Community)

      Processing time: Up to 48 hours

      Before applying, you need to register your company with NSF in Only after registering with can you login to FastLane and begin preparing your proposal. (SBIR and STTR proposals are not accepted in We recommend you explore FastLane before submitting your application.

      SBIR Company Registry

      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.

    2. Though we’re not currently accepting applications, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with our FastLane guide. This way, once the next solicitation opens, you’ll be ready to craft your application. We’ll release our next solicitation in March 2019.

      Start your application in FastLane

      Before you start your application, take a look at our FastLane guide or download our FastLane guide for detailed steps on how to submit your application and watch our video on how to apply.

  4. Deadline 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.
  5. 1-3 months after
    the deadline
    Applications undergo panel and merit reviews.
  6. 4-6 months after
    the deadline
    We'll notify you whether your proposal is accepted or declined.
  7. 5-6 months after
    the deadline
    If your proposal is accepted, you'll receive funding of up to $225,000.