NIH SBIR Awards Peaks Every September – So When Should You Submit?
By: Ayal Ronen, Vice President, FreeMind Group and Principal at FreeMind Investments
Each year, the different institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) award upwards of $1B (in aggregate) to qualifying life science small businesses to support research and development via the Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program. Annually, the SBIR program has three primary deadlines: January 5th, April 5th and September 5th. The awards are granted around May, August, and January, respectively (see Table).
Several years ago, at the FreeMind Group, we identified a trend whereby many of the annual awards are, in fact, made towards the end of the federal fiscal year. The fiscal year begins on October 1st, and ends September 30 (See graph of awards by month). To be considered for funding at this time, a company should submit an application in April or even as early as January, as many times we also see favorably reviewed, yet not fundable, January submissions make the final cut as the fiscal year ends and budgets must be fully allocated.
Source: NIH Reporter – https://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm
One caveat to this strategy is, that on occasion a company may need to resubmit their application based on comments from reviewers and though it may score well, it may not receive a fundable score. In this case, submitting in September and then resubmitting in January/April may result in a better position for award than a fresh application submitted in April surgically aiming for the end-of-year flux of awards.
Our best advice is to build a long-term, multi-submission approach that takes into consideration all deadlines throughout the year, while also anticipating the need for revisions and resubmissions. Depending on the breadth of your pipeline, aim to submit 2-3 applications per deadline. Submitting a single application in April and waiting until the end of September for a final response is not a strategy and will likely not yield the desired result. To win awards, companies must take a headstrong approach and execute diligently. That is the making of a successful non-dilutive funding campaign.