Q: What is NIST's SBIR Program?
A: The program consists of three phases: In Phase I, a small business can receive up to $100,000 to establish the scientific or technical merit or feasibility of ideas that appear to have commercial potential. All Phase I awardees are eligible to compete for a Phase II contract for up to $300,000 to continue research in the same technical area. Phase I awardees have 6 months to complete their work; Phase II awardees have up to 2 years. Phase II is the principal R&D effort. Under Phase III, no SBIR funds are available to pursue commercial applications of the technology.
Q: How does a small business apply?
A: An annual program solicitation document is published containing a list of R&D topics. Applicants can choose from the research topics identified in the solicitation and submit a proposal for any topic in which they feel qualified. Proposals must adhere to the guidelines provided in the solicitation; proposals that do not comply will not be considered. Unsolicited proposals are not accepted.
Q: Is it permissible to re-submit a proposal rejected from the prior year's Solicitation? One of the subtopics in this year's solicitation is similar to a topic in last year's solicitation. Maybe a resubmission with updated material would be appropriate and responsive to the current subtopic?
A: Provided it is updated to include state-of-the-art technology and addresses deficiencies that were noted in the reviewers' comments, you may resubmit. Please note that if it is essentially the same proposal, it will be returned without review. If it was deemed unacceptable once, it would meet the same fate again and will not pass the screening stage.
Q: My small business was awarded an SBIR grant by an agency other than NIST (e.g. DoD, NIH, NSF, ...) and I would like to work with NIST on certain aspects on that research because of NIST's unique capabilities. Will NIST provide me with technical assistance that I need?
A: NIST research labs may not be considered as a resource for general product development research in SBIR projects. SBIR funds should be spent in private sector research labs whenever possible. However, NIST research labs could be used under conditions where there is a very special piece of instrumentation/measurement/expertise not available in the private sector which may facilitate the overcoming of significant barriers in SBIR research. In such cases, a clear definition of the measurement required (i.e. what exactly has to be measured) should be identified and if the NIST resources are available, collaborative efforts may be possible. Any use of the NIST research labs should be aligned with the NIST mission of addressing new measurement needs for innovation and industrial competitiveness. In most cases, any research performed at NIST is open to the public.
If SBIR funds are to be used to fund the NIST effort, a waiver from the SBA is required. This waiver is handled through the agency that granted the SBIR funding agreement.
NIST has regular services that are available for small business and SBIR awardees. For example, the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships and Calibrations and Standards may be available.
Q: What happens during the black-out period when companies are prohibited from contacting the topic authors?
A: NIST has a "brown-out" since communication is allowed through the website while the solicitation is open. We institute the communication constraints to keep the competition open and fair. If one company has the opportunity to gain special insight into what the federal agency is seeking, its motivation, or other information that is not otherwise public, they would have an unfair advantage.