SBIR Contracts Basics
There are several important differences between grants and contracts. Additional information about those differences can be found here: https://grants.nih.gov/funding/contracts.htm#grantsvscontracts
An important difference between grants and contracts is how the submission, submitter and award are named. The table below compares the terms used for grants and contracts.
Request for Application (RFA),
|Request for Proposal (RFP)|
|Small Business Submissions||Applications||Proposals|
|Small Business Submitters||Applicants||Offerors (or Bidders)|
|Program Staff||Program Official (POs)||Contracting Officer Representatives (CORs)|
|Legal/Financial Staff||Grant Management Officers (GMOs) and Specialists (GMS)||Contracting Officers (COs)|
Contract Solicitation Process
The contract solicitation process is summarized below. The timeframes for individual contracts may vary.
Connecting with NIH Staff
An important distinction between the contract solicitation process and other NIH funding opportunities is the role played by NIH staff. There is a specific time frame for when you’re allowed to communicate, with whom, and how. Unlike for grants, in the case of contracts:
- All consultation requests must flow through the Contracting Officer (CO).
- Offerors may NOT reach out to program staff (CORs) directly.
- The CO is then obligated to share these communications, and any others related to that solicitation, with all offerors.
How are Contract Reviews Conducted?
Once the submission due date has passed, the Contracting Office initiates the review process. There are many similarities between contract and grant review processes but also important differences:
- Contract review panels tend to be smaller than many grant reviews.
- Each contract review panel is tailored specifically to the topic(s) being reviewed.
- Rather than the NIH 10-90 grant scoring system, contract proposals are scored using a 100% scale (note: typically, all contact proposals will receive a score).
- The Phase I and Phase II proposals in a Fast Track submission are submitted and evaluated separately, unlike with grant applications.
Post Award Reporting
Once your company has received an award, you will be required to provide reports of task updates and milestone deliverables to your CO. Payment under a contract is contingent on delivery of those items. Upon completion of the project, a final project report will be required.
Continuing Your Research in Phase II
All firms that are awarded Phase I contracts will be eligible to participate in Phase II. The process to submit a Phase II proposal is initiated by the Contract Officer. (Note: As is the case for Fast Track grants, accepted Fast Track proposals result in a base contract award for Phase I with a contractual option to move on to Phase II without a gap in funding, at the Government’s discretion.)
With regard to ownership of the product or technology developed, most often, NIH SBIR contracts function the same as SBIR and STTR grants. That is, products developed through these contracts are usually owned, distributed and commercialized by the awarded company, and these companies own all the rights to the products they develop.
IC Specific Processes
Some institutes have further specific processes and policies. For example, refer to the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Contract opportunities.