Success rates and the Department of Commerce

  • May 23rd, 2022

Customers always ask us what their overall chances of receiving funding are. This is a statistic that varies by year and by the agency. Each year is different and the overall success rate of Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), as well as the individual success rates for each of the 11 agencies participating in SBIR, will vary. Every year, we research the most current information on success rates for both so we can help our clients determine their likely success rates.

The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program is a federal grant opportunity released annually to fund high-risk, innovative research and development programs. There are 11 agencies that participate in the program. Each of the 11 agencies releases its own topics and subtopic and has a unique success rate. The success rate of each agency indicates the percentage of applicants that are awarded funds, on average. Success rates relate to how large the overall funding pool is for that agency as well as how many applications the agency receives. Programs with large funding purses and fewer applicants per round tend to have a higher success rate, while programs with less funding or a higher number of applicants are more competitive.

Overall, the federal government invests approximately 50 billion dollars per year into the SBIR/STTR program. The most recent published statistics for fiscal year spending indicate that agencies made awards for $2.572 billion, including 3,223 Phase I awards totaling $568.0 million and 1,871 Phase II awards totaling $2.004 billion.

The success rate overall was 17% for Phase I and 60% for Phase II.

More than half of SBIR awards made in FY2017 were Phase I awards (63%). However, over three-fourths of SBIR funding went to Phase II awards (78%) between FY2000 and FY2017. As you can see, it is much more difficult to obtain a Phase I than a Phase II award.

Success rates of the major funding programs a grant preparation professional has expertise in are an important factor in determining the validity of the personal success rate they quote you during an interview. Knowing the relatively small success rate for Phase I SBIR for instance allows a customer to determine that a high success rate for a grant preparation professional in this specific area is unlikely. Learning about the types of grants your professional prepares most and the success rates present within those funding opportunities is a great way to protect yourself against fraudulent claims from unscrupulous preparation specialists.

Department of Commerce

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) is one of the 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR program. The DOC issues two SBIR opportunities each year, one for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and one for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NIST is released in January and due in April and NOAA is released in October and due in January. DOC SBIR/STTR seeks applicants that have ideas to help businesses, universities, communities, and the Nationโ€™s workers to promote job creation, economic growth, sustainable development, and improved standards of living for Americans. Topics include job creation, workforce development, training, and economic development among others.

DOC Success Rate

Five agencies receive the bulk of funding for the SBIR program. These include the Department of Defense (DOD), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Energy (DOE), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The remaining 6 agencies, including the DOC, are allocated only 3% of the total funds. With such a small allocation of funds, it is understandable why the DOC only has a success rate of 12%. The average number of awards for DOC Phase I is 31, and Phase II 21 per year. The DOC generally awards $11m overall with $3.5m allocated to Phase I and $7.5m allocated to Phase II.


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