Our clients often ask us when rounding the bend of completing a grant proposal, “what are my chances”? While we can not control the outcome of any of the grants we help prepare (that is up to the reviewers), we can research the average annual success rates of each agency and the Small Business Innovation Research program overall to provide our clients with a general idea of their potential success rate.
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.
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 grant preparation professionals
Most grant preparation professionals are able to calculate an approximate success rate for themselves based on how many of their proposals have been funded. These rates can be helpful in determining which grant preparation professional is right for you, but be warned! There is no way to fact-check. You simply have to take them at their word. That being said, educating yourself about the relative rates of success for various agencies can help determine if the success rate a grant preparation professional provides for you is realistic.
Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is one of the 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR program. The EPA issues one SBIR window each year, which opens in June and is due in August. EPA SBIR/STTR seeks applicants that have ideas to innovate environmental sustainability and ecological solutions. Topics include alternative energy, clean and safe water, air quality, land revitalization, sustainable materials management, and safer chemicals.
EPA 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 EPA, are allocated only 3% of the total funds. With such a small allocation of funds, it is understandable why the EPA has one of the lowest success rates of all agencies at only 8%. The average number of awards for EPA Phase I is only 16, and Phase II is a mere 6 per year. The EPA generally awards $3.6m overall, with $1.6m allocated to Phase I and $2m allocated to Phase II.
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