Success rates of the Department of Education SBIR

  • February 15, 2022

Our clients always want to know their general chances of success when applying for federal funding. They often ask us for the overall success rates of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) as well as the success rate for the individual agency to which they are applying. Success rates change over time, but we pride ourselves on staying up to date regarding these rates so we can pass along that knowledge to our clients.

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.

Knowing the approximate success rates of various agencies and federal programs can help you determine if the success rate quoted to you by your grant preparation professional is realistic. If your grant preparation professional claims to have expertise in SBIR or in Department of Education funding, knowing the overall statistics for these programs and agencies is critical. Occasionally, grant preparation professionals will publish unrealistic statistics of their success rates in an effort to gain more clients. This is not only unethical but insulting to the client who can easily look up the statistics for the agency in question quickly determine the success rate is highly improbable.

Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education (DoED) is one of the 11 federal agencies that participate in the SBIR program. The DoED issues one SBIR window each year, which opens in December and is due in January. DoED SBIR/STTR seeks applicants that have ideas to innovate learning, whether in the form of new technology and tools to use for education inside or outside the classroom, distance learning, professional development for educators, innovations to help students with diverse needs, or implements to curricula or pedagogy.

DoED Success Rate

Five of the 11 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 DoED, are allocated only 3% of the total funds. With such a small allocation of funds, it is understandable why the DoED only has a success rate of 15%. The average number of awards for DoED Phase I is only 11, and Phase II only 7 per year. The DOED generally awards $7.9m overall with $1.6m allocated to Phase I and $6.3m allocated to Phase II.

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