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FastLane guide

3. Form Preparation

References Cited

Click on the “Go” button to the left of “References Cited”:

Provide a comprehensive listing of relevant references in this module. You can directly enter the references into the text box or you can transfer a file. It is recommended that you do the file transfer.

All proposals must have something in the References Cited section. If you do not have any references to cite, put a statement to that effect into this module.

References cited button on main form preparation screen When this section is completed, click “Go Back” to return to the “Form Preparation” screen.

References cited text box Follow the instructions on the below screen, then click “Upload File” to upload document. Click “Go Back” until you return to the “Form Preparation” screen.


Click on the “Go” button to left of “Budgets (Including Justification)”:

Budget button on main screen The budget should reflect the needs of the proposed R&D project.

The Project Budget Screen will appear. The company name should be highlighted; then Click on the “Add Year” button.

Project budget table displayed Year 1 will be highlighted; then Click the “Add” button. FastLane will return to the Project Budget Screen.

Add year selection box


Click on the “Funds” hyperlink (under the Year heading).

Project budget table with new row added IMPORTANT: To avoid budget reductions, NSF strongly advises you to visit the Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor Statistics website to determine the allowed pay scale for each budgeted position. In general, unless your company has other significant internal revenue sources, as well as recent payroll records showing a precedent for the requested salary, the NSF will not allow budgeted salaries in excess of the median salary for the same job title in the same geographical area. Click here to search for your city/state data. If your city is not listed, click here and use your state data. Remember that direct salaries and wages requested in an NSF SBIR/STTR budget are permitted only for work on R&D tasks.

In most cases, every employee listed in line A or B of the budget should fall under one of the following four occupational groups:

View the SBIR Salary Validation Guide for detailed salary survey guidance.

A. Senior Personnel section: Click the “Add/Remove Senior Personnel” button.

Example senior personnel screen with options to enter lengths of time and funds necessary Check the box(s) for the “Senior Personnel” to be included on the budget and then click “Save” to return to the “Year 1 Budget” screen.

Example of saved senior personnel with checkbox option to remove Provide the number of CALENDAR months and proposed cost for all “Senior Personnel”; then click “Calculate”. You must enter information into the Calendar Months field on each line for which funds are requested.

Budget Year 1 screen with Senior Personnel table and Calendar Months input column highlighted B. Other Personnel section: Provide all applicable information on personnel in the categories listed. Provide the number of CALENDAR months and proposed cost for all “Other Personnel”; then click “Calculate”.

Other Personnel input table with columns for number of personnel, calendar months, academic months, summer months, and funds requested

  • Provide names and titles of all personnel in the budget justification, as well as a clear description of their responsibilities in the project.Note: If you proposed new employees that are yet to be hired, simply list that position as a “potential hire” and proceed with the balance of the information as if they were already in your organization).
  • The small business concern should NOT budget any personnel or funds for “Post-Doctoral Scholars”, “Graduate Students” or “Undergraduate Students”.
  • In the Budget Justification, please include the actual annual salary information that justifies the calculation of the amounts requested (which should match the line item in the Budget) for all personnel in the project.

C. Fringe Benefits section: Provide the estimated amount of fringe benefits for Senior Personnel and Other Personnel; then click “Calculate”.

It is recommended that proposers allot funds for fringe benefits here ONLY if the proposer’s usual (established) accounting practices provide that fringe benefits be treated as direct costs. Otherwise, fringe benefits should be included in Line I, Indirect costs. (Line I+ Line C) should not be more than 150% of (Line A + Line B).

Fringe Benefits section with input box labeled Funds Requested By Proposer D. Equipment section: No purchases of equipment are permitted in an NSF SBIR Phase I project; this section should be left blank.

Equipment section with input boxes for item and dollar amount E. Travel section: One trip per year is required for attending the SBIR/STTR Phase I Grantees Workshop. A realistic estimate is $2,000 per person. Travel in Phase I is only permitted if it is necessary for the completion of the project R&D activities. Foreign travel is NOT permitted. In Phase I, NSF funds are NOT permitted to be budgeted for travel to conferences and trade shows. After inputting the appropriate dollar amount, click “Calculate”.

Travel section with input fields for funds requested for foriegn and domestic travel F. Participant Support Costs section: SBIR/STTR Phase I proposals do not use this budget line item; this section should be left blank.

Participant support section with a total cost of 0 G. Other Direct Costs section: Provide a dollar amount for the following line items; then click “Calculate”. G.1. Materials and Supplies
G.2. Publication Costs/Documentation/distrib (generally not allowed in SBIR/STTR Phase I)
G.3. Consultant Services
G.4. Computer (ADPE) Services
G.5. Subcontracts - a separate budget is REQUIRED for each subcontractor; the total amount of all these subcontracts should be entered here. (In the small business concern’s Budget Justification, please include a few sentences describing the scope and objective of the subaward.)
First, the applicant may budget up to $10,000 as a direct charge on line G.6 to this Phase I award for the following specific purposes related to financials and accounting:

  • Hiring a certified public accountant (CPA) to prepare audited, compiled, or reviewed financial statements
  • Hiring a CPA to perform an initial financial viability assessment based on standard financial ratios so the awardee organization would have time to improve their financial position prior to submitting the Phase II proposal
  • Hiring a CPA to review the adequacy of the awardee’s project cost accounting system
  • Purchasing a project cost accounting system

If the applicant elects to budget funds for one of the above purposes, the budget justification should include a brief description of the desired use of funds, and the use of funds must be approved by the cognizant Program Director, prior to award.

Second, the applicant may budget up to $20,000 to cover costs related to NSF’s “Beat-The-Odds Boot Camp” which is offered to all Phase I awardees.

This program is based on the NSF’s Innovation Corps program, and more information can be found here. All Phase I awardees are strongly encouraged to participate in this activity. Costs that are allowable are limited to travel costs related to customer discovery (this could include costs associated with registration/attendance at events for the purpose of customer discovery) and salary/wages for team members who participated in the Boot Camp. All costs related to the Boot Camp must be in line with approved salary rates and other relevant Federal guidelines. International travel cannot be reimbursed, nor can any salary/wages for work done while outside of the United States. NSF recommends that, for the purposes of the proposal budget, applicants that plan to participate in this activity budget $10,000 and simply list this as “Boot Camp” costs in the budget justification.

Other Direct Costs section with input fields for funds requested H. Total Direct Costs section: Click “Calculate” and the total of items A through G will update.

Total Direct Costs calculate button I. Indirect Costs section: The budgeted indirect costs must be in line with your organization’s past actual spending patterns. Enter the requested amount, then click “Calculate”.

Indirect costs section with item, rate %, and base input fields J. Total Direct and Indirect Costs section: Click “Calculate” and the total of items H and I will update. Total direct and indirect costs section with calculate button

K. Small business fee section: The “Small business fee” line is used to request a fee (profit) for the small business. If requested, the maximum amount of this profit must not exceed 7% (in Phase I) and 10% (in Phase II) of line item J. Click “Calculate” to update the amount. Small Busines fee section with input field and calculate button

L. Total Cost and Fee section: After all applicable line items have been inputted into your budget, click “Calculate and Save”; then click “Go Back” to return to the “Project Budget” screen. Total cost and residual funds section with 'calculate and save' and 'go back' buttons The cumulative budget will auto-populate after the completion of the “Year 1” and, if applicable, the subawardee budget.

IMPORTANT NOTE - All non-zero budget line items MUST be explained in the budget justification. Additionally, letters of commitment from any consultants and subawardees should also be included as part of the budget justification. See section 9.f.3 of the solicitation for more details.

12a. Budget Justification section: To complete the budget justification page, click on the “Budget Justification” hyperlink under your company name.

Budget justification section with table displaying year information and edit options After cutting and pasting/typing the budget justification in text box, click “Save Text” and then “Go Back” to return to the “Project Budget” screen.

If uploading a file, click "Transfer File" on the above screen. If uploading a file, click “Transfer File” on the above screen.

If you prefer, follow the instructions on the below screen and click “Upload File” to upload document. Once the budget justification is complete, click “Go Back” until you return to the “Form Preparation” screen or until you return to the “Project Budget” screen to add a subawardee.

Upload file box with information about supported file-types

Subawardee Budget

12b. Subawardee Budget section: Click “Add Another Organization” if a subawardee budget is required. Project budget information table with link to add another organization highlighted in lower left corner

To add the organization to the budget, complete a search by the organization’s name. Current Budget Organizations screen with input fields for name

Highlight the appropriate organization from the results that appear in the box; then click “Select”. Selection box with search results and option to select or cancel

Note: The organization needs to be registered with NSF if it does not appear in the list. Call the FastLane Help Desk at 800-673-6188 for assistance with this process.

Highlight the subawardee PI from the listing of “Senior Personnel” participants that were added earlier in the process, then click “Select”.

Selection box with list of names and option to select Return to the “Project Budget” screen and follow the previous instructions for adding the below data to the subawardee budget and budget justification when applicable. (Note: Subaward budget cannot include funds for “Permanent Equipment”, “Participant Support Costs”, or “Small business fee”.)

  • Years
  • Senior Personnel/Other Personnel
  • Fringe Benefits
  • Travel
  • Other Direct Costs
  • Total Direct Costs
  • Indirect Costs
  • Total Direct and Indirect Costs
  • Total Cost and Small business fee

When applicable, provide quotes, price lists etc. (same as the main budget) in the budget justification. Do not upload quotes to the Supplementary Documents module.

Project Budget table displaying organizations, funds, and options to edit After completing all budget requirements, click “Go Back” to return to the “Form Preparation” screen.



These sample budgets provide you with the level of detail NSF requires for all SBIR/STTR proposals. Too much information is always better than not enough. If you have questions regarding the budget preparation call the cognizant Program Director for guidance and clarification.

Sample budget populated as PDF:

PDF of example proposal budget filled out
Proposal budget example continued

Sample Budget Justification:

A.1 Senior Personnel
Dr. Jane Smith, Chief Technical Officer, will work two person-months on the project (line A.1) at an hourly rate of $48/hr. 2 months * 173.33hrs/month * $48/hr = $16,640.

B. Other Personnel
Three other personnel will work on the project (line B.2).

An electrical engineer, Mr. Michael Jones, will spend four months of effort building the prototype amplifier circuitry, at a rate of $24/hour. 4 months * 173.33hrs/month * $24/hr = $16,640.

Two technicians will spend a total of three months each doing electrical and mechanical characterization, respectively, at a rate of $18/hour. 6 months * 173.33hrs/month * $18/hr = $18,720.

C. Fringe Benefits
Fringe benefits are requested to cover medical, dental, and vision coverage for employees. The fringe benefits rate, based on company records, is 20% of direct labor costs. Therefore, requested fringe benefits are 0.20 * $52,000 (total direct labor) = $10,400.

E. Travel
Dr. Smith and Mr. Jones will travel to the Grantees Workshop, at an estimated cost of $2,000 per person. Total cost for this trip is $4,000. Dr. Smith will also make one two-day trip to visit collaborators at Brown University. This trip will include round-trip airfare ($400), two nights at a hotel ($300), meals ($80), and a rental car ($150). Total cost for this trip is $930. Total budgeted travel is $4,930.

G.1. Materials and Supplies
The following is a list of materials and supplies to purchase, with quantity, unit cost, and total cost. Items with a total line item cost over $5,000 have quotes or pricing documentation included as separate pages in this budget justification.

Chemical precursors: $150/unit, 20 units, $3,000.
Specialized alloys: $600/kg, 10 kg, $6,000.
Temperature sensors: $250/unit, 8 units, $2,000.
Total budgeted materials and supplies is $11,000.

G.3. Consultant Services
Dr. I. D. Snow will be our consultant. She will work for a total of ten days (80 hours/8 hours per day) at the maximum consultant rate of $600/day. Total requested costs are $6,000. A copy of the signed commitment letter from Dr. Snow is included with this budget justification.

G.5. Subawards
One subaward has been reached with Brown University. A signed letter of commitment from the subaward lead, Dr. Fred Johnson, is included in the proposal package. A full subaward budget and budget justification is also included with the proposal (see below). The total subaward amount is $35,000.

G.6 Other
ABC Machining will manufacture two sample holders, requiring an estimated 20 hours of effort. The rate for this service is $75/hour. Total cost is 20 * $75 = $1,500. We will also pay for use of electron microscopes at Purdue University, with a total of 10 hours budgeted. The cost for outside industrial users (see attached price list) is $200/hour, for a total cost of $2,000. Total “other” costs are $3,500.

I. Indirect Costs
The indirect rate for this project is 40% of total salaries and wages, for a total of $52,000 * 40% = $20,800.

K. Fee
The fee is calculated as 4.43% of the total direct plus indirect costs (line J), or $6,370. Taking the maximum allowed fee of 7% would lead to a project budget over the $275,000 limit for Phase I.

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