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NCCIH Research Blog

Tips for Small Business Grant Applicants Considering NCCIH 

August 14, 2019

Merav Sabri, Ph.D.

Merav Sabri, Ph.D.

Program Director

Basic and Mechanistic Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

Are you aware that there is funding available at NCCIH through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, also known as America’s Seed Fund? This specific funding encourages innovative research and development (R&D) of technology with commercialization potential to enhance the science, usefulness, and/or safety of complementary and integrative health approaches.

In February 2018, I provided an overview of NCCIH’s interests, and in June 2019, I updated you on important SBIR/STTR program changes. Today’s post discusses how to decide whether to apply for the program and the application process.

What Types of SBIR/STTR Applications Is NCCIH Looking For?

NCCIH is interested in SBIR/STTR applications that demonstrate clear alignment between the proposal and the Center’s goals, interests, and priorities as stated, e.g., in a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and/or an explicit list of topics.

  • Start by evaluating whether your project idea is best suited to NCCIH, rather than another NIH institute/center or an agency outside NIH. I often hear from inquirers who have not yet read NCCIH’s mission and NCCIH’s SBIR/STTR topics of interest or consulted our SBIR/STTR webpage. These all provide critical information.
    • All current NCCIH FOAs are at /grants/funding-opportunities. You can filter for “Small Business (SBIR/STTR)” using the dropdown menu for “Grant Type.”
    • For more about SBIR/STTR programs across other NIH institutes and centers, see https://sbir.nih.gov/. For other Federal agencies with SBIR/STTR programs in science and technology, see https://www.sbir.gov/.
  • It’s important to read all the details of the FOA you are interested in pursuing. That may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it does not happen.
  • If your ideas do not align with current NCCIH-initiated SBIR/STTR FOAs, the “parent” or “omnibus” FOA could be a good option to explore. Again, your ideas must fit with NCCIH’s mission and our topics of interest (consult the links above).

Other Important Considerations

  • The NIH SBIR/STTR Program Office website has many tools and resources. I often recommend its “HHS SBIR/STTR PHS 2019-2 Grant Omnibus/Parent” webinar, which discusses Federal guidelines, proposal preparation, the funding process, and other topics. A recording and slides from the webinar are available for you to review.
  • Know the marketplace for your idea. What are other entrepreneurs doing in your topic area? Would your project idea duplicate projects that are already out there?
  • Consult the NIH RePORTER database on past and present NIH-funded research projects. You can search RePORTER by keyword(s) of interest and find out whether any idea similar to yours already been funded, and if so, by which NIH institutes and centers. You must provide evidence that your ideas are novel and innovative.
  • Develop a commercialization plan. Does the proposed project have commercial potential to lead to a marketable product, process, or service? (In the case of Phase II, Fast-Track, and Phase II Competing Renewals, does the Commercialization Plan demonstrate a high probability of commercialization?)
  • As you develop your application, we highly recommend that you reach out to the small-business development and assistance organizations in your state or community; one list is at https://sbir.nih.gov/resources/lifescience-state-contacts).
  • Consider attending an event hosted by the Small Business Administration’s SBIR Road Tour. Each tour stop is hosted by a local organization involved in supporting entrepreneurs in next-generation R&D. Current dates are from August through mid-November 2019 in selected U.S. cities and Puerto Rico.

Upcoming SBIR/STTR submission dates are September 5, 2019, January 6, 2020, and April 6, 2020. If you’re planning to apply, I hope you have found my advice to be helpful.

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