You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers.
The following reflect the frequently asked questions we’ve received from applicants. Aside from the general questions on this page, we have answers to questions about eligibility, technical and business assistance, and various forms required for your SBIR/STTR application.
If you have a question not answered on these pages, please email us at email@example.com.
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To assess fit to a specific SBIR/STTR program area: After reviewing the program area descriptions from the RFA (Part I.C), contact the specified Program Area National Program Leader found in the RFA. If you are undecided about which topic area may be a good fit, then you may want to reach out to the SBIR/STTR National Program Leader, Dave Songstad, at email@example.com. When contacting an NPL for a meeting, it is best to write up a one paragraph summary of your research/innovation. Most NPL meetings are scheduled for about 20 minutes.
While it is not prohibited to do so, SBIR/STTR programs discourage the same individual from submitting more than one application as lead/first PD/PI. Because of the competitive nature of the SBIR/STTR programs, it is often best to select one project and put the time into writing the strongest application you can. However, there is no prohibition against more than one grant being recommended to a single PD/PI. For Co-PD/PIs and collaborators, there is also no prohibition on being on more than one project. All Co-PDs and PDs must remember to include all pending applications in their Current & Pending form to confirm they would have enough time to work on all grants if all the listed applications receive awards.
USDA SBIR/STTR uses a peer review process to evaluate grants. You can find general information about the NIFA peer review process in this fact sheet, and information specific to SBIR/STTR peer review guidelines is found in the RFA Evaluation Criteria (RFA Part V.B).
The eligibility requirements are noted in Part III of the RFA. You can also find more information in this SBIR tutorial.
Yes, all applicants need to qualify as an SBC and have an SBC Control number at the time of application submission. The steps to obtain an SBC Control number include:
- Register company with SBIR.gov, and
- Complete the required steps necessary to register on Grants.gov, which includes:
- Obtain a UEI number
- Register with SAM.gov or complete the annual update if you are already registered. This can take up to 2 weeks with an additional 5 weeks to acquire a UEI (Unique Entity Identifier). The Unique Entity Identifier is the new, 12-digit alphanumeric identifier that will be provided by SAM.gov registration to all entities who register to do business with the federal government (including existing entities). This is the identifier that is replacing DUNS.
- Create a Grants.gov username and account (if you already have one, please remember that passwords expire every 60 days. Accounts inactive for one year or more result in removal of all account roles).
- Obtain a UEI number
Using “off-the-shelf technologies” in new/novel ways is allowable only for 8.6: Rural and Community Development and/or 8.12: Small and Mid-Sized Farms. Use of off-the-shelf technologies is not allowed for the other eight program/topic areas (8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.7, 8.8, or 8.13).
Technical and Business Assistance (TABA)
You can learn more about TABA at NIFA’s TABA webpage. For Phase I, if you do not include an external TABA vendor in your application, you will have access to the USDA TABA provider, Larta. For Phase II, applicants must request TABA in their application to receive TABA funds. TABA is an expense USDA pays for awardees. TABA helps with a wide variety of commercialization services from intellectual property and marketing to financial planning.
You can learn more about TABA on NIFA’s TABA webpage. Intellectual property (IP) legal costs, marketing, market research, financial review, consultations on funding strategy, and activities related to manufacturing are a few examples of TABA activities. The purpose of TABA is to assist SBIR/STTR awardees in making better technical decisions on SBIR/STTR projects, solving technical problems that arise during their SBIR/STTR project, minimizing technical risks associated with SBIR/STTR projects, and commercializing the SBIR/STTR product or process, including IP protections.
For Phase I, everyone who wants TABA assistance through Larta can get it. Some awardees choose not to participate. For Phase I, if you do not want to use Larta, and you want TABA services from a different vendor, you should indicate your vendor of choice as “Other Direct Costs” in your budget, provide a detailed budget justification and a signed letter of commitment from the provider.
Yes. For Phase I, if you choose to use Larta, you do not include TABA in your budget; USDA will pay Larta for your TABA service. Therefore, your budget should not exceed $125,000 for topic areas 8.6 and 8.12 or $175,000 for all other topic areas.
For Phase I, if you do not want to use Larta and you want TABA service from a different vendor, you should indicate your vendor of choice as “Other Direct Costs” in your budget, provide a detailed budget justification and a signed letter of commitment from the provider. You may include up to $6,500 for assistance. With your own TABA vendor, your budget should not exceed $131,500 for topic areas 8.6 and 8.12 or $181,500 for all other topic areas.
For Phase II, applicants may request up to $50,000 for TABA, and this must be included in your budget, regardless of vendor. The applicant is required to submit a TABA plan in addition to qualification statements from the selected TABA vendor(s). Phase II budgets with TABA should not exceed $650,000 for all topic areas. If you are not choosing TABA for Phase II, your budget should not exceed $600,000.
Yes, and the applicant will be required to produce a current (non-expired) negotiated indirect cost rate agreement (NICRA) at the time of award to recover the costs. Provisional billing rates will not be accepted. For specific indirect cost questions, please reach out to RecipientsICPs@usda.gov for more specific guidance.
For the purpose of grants, fringe benefits would be “indirect costs” such as health insurance for employees. Indirect costs can be thought of as overhead, or costs of doing business that can be charged to multiple grants. You can learn more about IDCs at our IDC webpage or reach out to RecipientsICPs@usda.gov.
Even without a NICRA or negotiated indirect cost rate, you can still claim the 10% de minimus rate. See our IDC webpage for more information.