We recommend treating the submission window like a deadline, but you can submit anytime within a year of receiving an official invitation from NSF. (NSF uses quarterly submission windows to help gather and review proposals, but sometimes proposals are reviewed as they are received.)
- February 12, 2021 - March 4, 2021
- March 5, 2021 - June 3, 2021
- June 4, 2021 - September 2, 2021
- September 3, 2021 - December 2, 2021
Ready to get started? You'll need to read the official policy document (the solicitation) which outlines the official requirements, key elements and supplemental information you'll need to draft your proposal. We also recommend that you start the registration process right away.
Read the call for proposals (solicitation)
NSF has two Phase I solicitations: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). They are almost identical, but an SBIR proposal does not require that the startup partner with an eligible research institution. In an STTR proposal, the startup must perform a minimum of 40% of the research, as measured by the budget, and a minimum of 30% of the research must be performed by the partner research institution.
Register your company (FREE and required)
If your company hasn’t worked with the government before, you’ll need to register with these systems (we recommend the order listed below). Every step in our process, including all of these registrations, is free. 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 of the account where the NSF funds would be deposited. 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. To submit proposals to NSF SBIR/STTR, you only need to request “financial assistance” authority and do NOT need “contract” authority (which can be a much longer process to obtain). SAM registration must be renewed annually.
Processing time: Up to 48 hours
Before applying, you need to register your company with NSF in Research.gov. Only after registering with Research.gov can you login to FastLane and begin preparing your proposal. (SBIR and STTR proposals are not accepted in Research.gov). 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.
Ready to submit your proposal?
The Fastlane system allows you to create your proposal piece by piece, so there’s no need to have everything ready before you start working in Fastlane (and we recommend exploring the Fastlane interface once or twice before starting to write the various proposal documents).
Frequently asked questions
Have lingering questions? Visit our FAQ, which cover the pre-application process to post-award reporting (and everything in between).
Read our step-by-step FastLane guide. We have screenshots to help walk you through the submission process.
Understanding the review process
The merit review process enables NSF to make wise investments in all fields of science and engineering research and education. Please review information on our merit review criteria to understand what we mean by intellectual merit, broader impacts and commercial impacts.