How To Successfully Navigate SBIR Application Process

Narine Emdjian
4 min readMar 26


As a small business owner, obtaining capital to start or grow your business can be a challenging task. Traditional funding options such as loans and investors aren’t always available or feasible for new startups. On the other hand, the government offers a valuable source of funding for small businesses through various grant programs. So far the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program has become the largest source of initial capital for startups that offers up to 2 million in non-dilutive funding towards R&D and commercialization.

However, navigating the application process can be challenging. It can be very complex and time-consuming which requires technical skills and knowledge. This can be a real setback for many companies to choose the federal funding pathway.

By understanding the grant application process, identifying eligible grant programs, and following best practices for proposal writing and application, you can increase your chances of success. With the right resources and support, you can unlock the door to success and take your startup to the next level.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the process of applying for SBIR grants, including providing tips and tricks on how to navigate the application process and write a successful grant proposal.

Where To Start

The process typically begins with searching for SBIR funding opportunities that match your business’s needs and goals. In my previous blog post, I’m providing detailed steps on where to look for SBIR funding opportunities and how to find the right funding opportunity for your company. Once you’ve identified a funding opportunity, you’ll need to get insights into the program’s requirements and mission. Keep in mind, if you do not meet the funding program’s requirements your application will be denied.

Next, you’ll need to prepare your application package to submit. But before starting working on it, you will need to complete several necessary registrations with System for Award Management (SAM) and several others based on the agency.

SAM is a government-wide registry for vendors doing business with the Federal government and is universal for all the companies that intend to apply for SBIR grants. No matter whether you want to apply for a federal grant or do business with the government you will need to have a SAM-verified account.

Depending on the agency and program, you’ll also need to go through several other registrations, such as, FastLine,, or eRA Commons.

As a small business, you will also need to get a Small Business Concern Identification number (SBC ID) which is required prior to submission of the proposal. All SBCs must report ownership information prior to each SBIR/STTR proposal submission and update the SBC if any information changes prior to the award.

Those registrations are crucial steps that require time. For example, SAM registration might take up to 8 weeks to complete and get verified. So it is suggested to start the registration as soon as possible.

Once you’ve initiated registration, it’s time for you to start focusing on your project proposal. Depending on the Agency, the SBIR project proposal can be varied. For example, the National Science Foundation requires a project proposal to be up to 15 pages maximum. The project description is the core of the proposal document, where the PI convinces the expert reviewers and NSF SBIR Program Director that his/her proposed R&D project meets NSF’s criteria for intellectual merit, broader impacts, and commercial opportunity.

In developing a project proposal you need to present evidence that the proposed technology is innovative, and that there are high technical risks involved with the proposed solution. You also need to showcase a credible plan to overcome these technical risks and establish technical feasibility during Phase I.

Your mission would be to convince the reviewers that the company and the project team have the necessary expertise, resources, and support to carry out the project and that they are committed to building a viable business around the product/service being developed.

Finally, present a compelling case that the project will significantly advance the readiness of the technology and strengthen its commercial position.

There are also special forms involved with the application package such as Cover Sheet, bio-sketches, support letters, a budget narrative, and other documentation as needed. documents.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for SBIR

There are a number of common mistakes that startups make when applying for the SBIR program. These include:

  • Failing to thoroughly understand the program solicitation and eligibility criteria. Be sure to review the eligibility criteria for each grant program carefully before applying to avoid wasting time on ineligible applications.
  • Submitting a proposal that does not address all of the application sections. Each SBIR program has its own goals and objectives, so be sure to tailor your proposal to the specific program to which you’re applying.
  • Failing to provide supporting documentation or providing incomplete or inaccurate documentation. It’s important to have enough support letters expressing commitment to the proposal.
  • Failing to demonstrate your business’s potential for success and impact: Use data and research to demonstrate your business’s potential for success and impact on the community.

Securing federal grants for your startup can be a complex process, but it can be an excellent source of funding and support. By understanding the different types of federal grants available, the eligibility criteria, and the application process, startups can successfully secure federal grants. Additionally, startups can leverage federal grants to attract private investment and advance their industries through innovative technologies. With the right resources and support, startups can thrive and make a significant impact in their respective industries.

If you’re a growth-stage company looking for SBIR funding, schedule a call with me today to learn more about available grants and eligibility criteria. Send a call request at or reach out via LinkedIn



Narine Emdjian

Founder at iFund Lab | Federal Funding Expert helping startups & tech entrepreneurs to raise non-dilutive funding through SBIR & other federal funding programs.