Success rates of the National Science Foundation’s SBIR/STTR

  • August 17, 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.

National Science Foundation (NSF) receives 6% of all SBIR spending. NSF has the highest success rate of all 11 agencies at 20%. The average number of awards for NSF Phase I is 239. Phase II awards number 107 per year.

Grant professionals have success rates based on how many of their clients have been awarded funding. Unfortunately, it is too easy for a proposal preparation specialist to fabricate a higher success rate. Some unethical proposal preparation specialists exhibit this behavior in an attempt to gain client trust or obtain more clients. One way to validate the success rate you are given is to understand the relatively low overall success rates in programs such as SBIR. There is no way to truly know the accuracy of a grant professional’s success rate, but using the federal success rates as a guideline can alert you to potentially fraudulent claims.

See more about NSF SBIR/STTR Funding here.

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