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Before You Apply

Learn if your company is eligible for NIH SBIR or STTR funding, how to apply, and what to expect during each step of the application process.  Before you apply, be sure to connect with NIH staff and complete all required registrations.

Note: To navigate the interactive process timeline, click on the dots to be taken to that section. You can also navigate between steps by clicking the buttons at the bottom of the page. Click on "learn more" to find additional information related to a given step. 

Explore what
we fund
Explore funding
Talk through your
idea with NIH staff
Find a funding
opportunity of interest
Prepare your
Submit, track, and
view your application
Use eRA commons to
follow application status
Understand the
Review Process
Receive a
Funding Decision
Explore Support
Explore What We Fund

We fund health, life science, and biomedical discoveries that could improve the lives of patients and their families. 

  • Check out our portfolio to see what’s been recently funded. 
  • Read our Success Stories to see how NIH funding has made a difference in public health. 
Determine Eligibility

The SBIR and STTR programs are designed to support small, independent, US companies. Applicants must certify at the time of award that the company meets the size, ownership, and control requirements of the programs.  Applicants must be a for-profit company with 500 employees or less. 

Register Your Company

If your company has not worked with NIH before, you must complete multiple registrations prior to preparing an application and applying for funding. 

  • SAM (System for Award Management) – required to do business with the U.S. government 
    • SAM will issue a 12-character unique entity identifier (UEI) used to complete your full SAM registration and which serves as the official organization identifier in other federal systems
  • eRA Commons – required to do business with NIH and some HHS agencies 
  •– required to submit grant applications through the federal-wide grant portal 
  • SBA (Small Business Administration) – required to participate in SBIR and STTR federal funding programs   

Note: Different systems may use different terminology – “organization”, “institution”, “company”, and “entity” can be used interchangeably. 

Start now! It can take 6 weeks or more to complete the registration process.

Explore Funding Paths

Our programs provide funding based on milestones achieved during given phases. NIH Small Business funding phases are separate from and not aligned with Clinical Trial phases. You can begin with either a Phase I, Fast Track, or Direct to Phase II. Which path you choose depends on the amount of preliminary research and technology development you have done in advance of applying to NIH. 

  • Phase I: A Phase I award helps you focus on the feasibility, technical merit, and commercial potential of your research project.  
  • Fast-Track: The Fast-Track process allows you to submit both the Phase I and Phase II in one application for review. The Fast-Track mechanism can minimize the funding gap between phases but requires a fully developed Phase II application at the time of submission. 
  • Direct to Phase II (SBIR Only): If your project has already demonstrated feasibility and you have significant amounts of preliminary data but you have not received a Phase I SBIR or STTR, you can apply for a Direct to Phase II award.  


Talk Through Your Idea with NIH Staff

How would you answer these questions?

  • What problem are you trying to solve and why is it a problem?
  • What’s your technology/research idea to solve the problem?
  • What is your approach (e.g., prototype, mock-up and focus groups, analysis)?
  • Who needs and would use your solution? What’s the marketplace? 

Consider writing a succinct (1-page or less) concept paper or specific aims to organize your thoughts.  
Determine the awarding component (HHS Institute/Center) with potential interest in your idea. Schedule a phone consultation and provide the concept paper or specific aims in advance to make the most of your time.