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Get definitions for terms on required application forms and specific guidance on how to fill out certain fields, including whether it’s permissible to include proprietary information in your application, where you should upload letters of support and how to format your bibliography. 

SF424 Research and Related (R&R) Application for Federal Assistance Form

An AR/AOR is the official within an applicant organization with the legal authority to give assurances, make commitments, enter into contracts, and execute such documents on behalf of the applicant as may be required by a grant maker. The signature of the AR/AOR certifies that commitments made on grant proposals will be honored and ensures that the applicant agrees to conform to the grant maker's regulations, guidelines, and policies. Note that the AR/AOR can be but is not always the Project Director.

Yes, the AR/AOR and PD/PI can be the same individual.


The small business is always the applicant for SBIR/STTR. Applicants should use their business address and contact information.

Yes, there is some flexibility. If selected for an award, awardees can work with the Awards Management staff to set the start date.

Yes. You can then further develop the commercialization plan in Phase II.

“Nonfederal funds” are not required for USDA SBIR/STTR. These funds would be external matching funds, which some programs require. USDA NIFA SBIR/STTR programs do not require matching funds.

If you don’t expect to have any income during the project Period of Performance, it is fine to put $0. Otherwise, use your best estimate.

Not for USDA SBIR/STTR applications. Other agencies may require project pitches or letters of intent for SBIR/STTR programs, but USDA does not.

Research and Related (R&R) Other Project Information Form

Yes, you should consider including proprietary information and indicate in your proposal that proprietary information is included as described in the RFA:

Proprietary information must be clearly marked by the applicant with the term “confidential proprietary information,” and the following legend must appear on each PDF attachment submitted as a part of the application: “These data shall not be disclosed outside the Government and shall not be duplicated, used or disclosed in whole or in part for any purpose other than evaluation of this application. If a funding agreement is awarded to this applicant as a result of or in connection with the submission of these data, the Government shall have the right to duplicate, use or disclose the data to the extent provided in the funding agreement and pursuant to applicable law. This restriction does not limit the Government’s right to use information contained in the data if it is obtained from another source without restriction. The data subject to this restriction are contained on pages __ of this application.”

Letters of Support are uploaded on the R&R Other Project Information Form, Field 12, “Other Attachments”. While there are no formatting guidelines for the Letters of Support, the letters need to be in PDF format.


All citations must be properly referenced in the Bibliography & References Cited as a separate attachment (R&R Other Project Information, Field 9). For each reference, provide the complete name for each author, the year of the publication, full title of the article, name of the journal or book published, volume, and the page numbers. The references should be listed in alphabetical order using the last name of the first author.

Research and Related (R&R) Budget Form and Budget Justification

The Period of Performance is 8 months for SBIR Phase I, 12 months for STTR Phase I, and 24 months for Phase II SBIR and STTR, unless you receive a no-cost extension. The grant money needs to be spent by the end of the Period of Performance or the end of the no-cost extension.

The evaluation period is the time between the application deadline and notification. You will have an option to submit an updated budget form before an award is made.

Yes, contractors are usually not listed as Key Personnel.

Yes. The NIFA Application Guide says, "Enter the annual compensation paid by the employer for each senior/key personnel."

There is no set amount. The salary level must be documented, justified and reasonable. For SBIR, consultants may perform up to a maximum of 33% of the Phase I research and a maximum of 50% of the Phase II research, as determined by budget expenditures. For STTR, a single nonprofit research institution must perform a minimum of 30% and a maximum of 60% of the research, as determined by budget expenditures.

Yes, requested salaries must be consistent with institutional practices, meaning it must be reasonable. You can look at wage data for your area to see what is considered reasonable for your position.

From NIH:

“The fee is intended to be a reasonable profit factor available to for-profit organizations, consistent with normal profit margins provided to profit-making firms for research and development work. The fee is not a direct or indirect ‘cost’ item and may be used by the small business concern for any purpose, including additional effort under the SBIR/STTR award. The fee applies solely to the small business concern receiving the award and not to any other participant in the project.”

See USDA SBIR/STTR RFA subsection R&R Budget #2 Fee.

Research and Related (R&R) Senior/Key Person Profile Form

You don’t need curricula vitae from consultants, only for senior or key personnel. A letter of commitment from consultants is sufficient, which can contain statements on qualifications, but we do not need biographies. Letters of commitment would be uploaded in the R&R Other Information Form, Field 12.

Yes, Current and Pending Support and curricula vitae are required to be uploaded as PDFs in this section for the senior or key personnel. Further, the Conflict of Interest form should be uploaded for the senior or key personnel as a combined PDF on the NIFA Supplemental Information Form, Field 8.

Yes, they can be listed in the Senior/Key Personnel, but they should also provide a letter indicating their willingness to participate. Please keep in mind, for SBIR Phase I, outside services are limited to 33% of the budget, and for SBIR Phase II, outside services are limited to 50% of the budget. For STTR Phase I and Phase II, outside services for a single nonprofit research institution must be within 30 to 60% of the budget.

It is up to you who to include as Key Personnel. A definition from NIH can be helpful:

The PD/PI and other individuals who contribute to the scientific development or execution of a project in a substantive, measurable way to the scientific development or execution of the project, whether or not they receive salaries or compensation under the grant. i.e., their absence from the project would be expected to impact the approved scope of the project. Typically, these individuals have doctoral or other professional degrees, although individuals at the masters or baccalaureate level may be considered senior/key personnel if their involvement meets this definition. Consultants and those with a postdoctoral role also may be considered senior/key personnel if they meet this definition. "Senior/key personnel must devote measurable effort to the project whether or not salaries or compensation are requested." "Zero percent" effort or "as needed" are not acceptable levels of involvement for individuals designated as Senior/Key Personnel.

SBIR/STTR Information Form

For Phase I, the research/research and development (R/R&D) work must be performed in the United States. On rare and unique circumstances, for example, a supply, material or project requirement may not be available in the U.S. Agencies may allow that particular portion of the R/R&D work to be performed or obtained outside of the United States.

No, this does not exclude the collaboration, which is acceptable. Please review the Global Engagement in the RFA’s Purpose and Priorities section (Part 1.B).

NIFA Supplemental Information Form

For Phase I, the funding opportunity name is Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Programs Phase I. For Phase II, the funding opportunity name is Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Programs Phase II.

The funding opportunity number changes for each Request for Applications (RFA). Please see Part IV Section A, “Steps to Obtain Application Materials” for the funding opportunity number.

The program code name is the name of the program/topic area that you are applying to (e.g., “Animal Production and Protection”). The program code is the numerical code associated with the program code name. For example, the program code for “Animal Production and Protection” is 8.3.

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