Success rates for the Department of Health and Human Services SBIR

  • August 10, 2021

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. This measurement relates 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 percentage of awarded proposals, 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.

In general, the success rate of SBIR/STTR is ~ 17% for Phase I and ~60% for Phase II.

Success rates of grant preparation professionals

Grant preparation professionals often calculate their success rate based on how many of their clients win awards. However, there is no way to validate the success rate provided by a grant preparation specialist. This has led some unscrupulous grant professionals to exaggerate their success rate as a way to bring in more clients or increase client confidence. The truth is that no matter the success rate, a grant preparation professional can never guarantee an award will be made. That decision is up to reviewers. Understanding how few of the thousands of SBIR applications get funded should shed some light on what a realistic vs. an improbable grant professional success rate should look like.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one of the 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR program. There are three Funding Opportunity due dates per year on the fifth of January, April, and, September. HHS SBIR/STTR awardees have developed innovative technologies that benefit the department and the public while providing a basis for growth for small businesses. HHS topics surround health and healthcare including diagnostics, therapeutics, treatments, medical devices, digital health, diseases, human genome, biology, biophysics, mental health, aging, and substance use disorders.

HHS Success Rate

The HHS receives the second-largest amount of federal funding in the SBIR program of any of the 11 agencies encompassing 31% of all SBIR spending. Nonetheless. HHS has a success rate of only 14%. The average number of awards for HHS Phase I is 728. Phase II awards number 427 per year. The HHS generally awards $843.4m overall with $212.7m allocated to Phase I and $630.7m allocated to Phase II. Overall, despite a success rate of only 14% the HHS is among the least competitive SBIR agencies as its large funding purse enables it to grant over one thousand awards per fiscal year.

See more about NIH SBIR/STTR funding here.

We work with high-growth startups and organizations that support the startup and innovation ecosystem. We build highly specific non-dilutive funding menus, provide proposal preparation services, and measure outcomes of funding through evaluation. Schedule a consult call with us HERE.