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3 SECRETS To MAXIMIZE Your NIH SBIR Award!



Congratulations on receiving an NIH SBIR grant! This is a huge accomplishment and I am excited to provide you with valuable information to help you make the most out of your award. In this article, I will be sharing three important things that you MUST know to fully optimize your SBIR grant. Keep reading until the end of this video so that you can learn ways to effectively engage with the agency, extend your contract, and even get more funding. These secrets will give you a competitive edge and ensure that you don't miss out on any opportunities!

Welcome back to the blog! As always, I'm Stacy Chin from KeepYourEquity.co, where we help science and tech start-ups secure non-dilutive federal grants to bring innovative ideas to the commercial market. Our mission is to provide you with the necessary resources and guidance to secure funding through federal programs such as SBIR and STTR. These programs are critical ways to provide Founders with the much-needed non-dilutive funding to support innovative research and development efforts. If you’d like to learn more about SBIR or STTR funding and how it may benefit your start-up, you can check that out here.


As a founder, you have likely put in countless hours of hard work and dedication to progress your start-up. Receiving an SBIR grant is a significant accomplishment that validates your efforts. However, simply receiving the grant is only the beginning of your project! So you can take full advantage of the opportunity, you’ll need to know how to maximize your award. Luckily, the three tips I have to share with you today will help you do that!


Just by keeping these things in the back of your mind, they may help you to secure even more resources to ultimately help bring your idea to market faster and more efficiently. They can also help you build credibility with investors and potentially secure even more funding down the line.


Moreover, the SBIR program is highly competitive, with a low success rate for applicants. Therefore, if you have already received an award, it is essential to take advantage of all resources available to you in order to maximize your chances of success. By fully optimizing your SBIR grant award, you can position your start-up for long-term success and growth.


So with that, let’s dive into my three tips on how you can maximize your SBIR grant by getting more funding, extending your contract, and engaging with the agency.


Make Your NIH Program Officer Your BFF


My first secret is to be best friends with your NIH Program Officer! If you are an NIH SBIR awardee, you will get assigned a Program Officer from the NIH agency that awarded you the funding.


What is an NIH Program Officer?


The Program Officer is an NIH staff member who is responsible for overseeing your grant and providing guidance and assistance throughout the project period. The Program Officer will also serve as your primary point of contact at the NIH and you should be communicating with them regularly to keep them updated on the progress of your project. They will also be responsible for reviewing your progress reports, providing feedback on your research, and helping you navigate the NIH system.


Who is my NIH Program Officer?


So how do you find out who your Program Officer is? Well, when you get an NIH SBIR grant, you will receive a Notice of Award or the NoA. The NoA is a formal document sent to you by the NIH that outlines the details of your grant, including the award amount, start and end dates, and any special conditions or requirements. Your Program Officer's contact information will also be on this NoA along with their name, email address, and phone number.


How to Build A Relationship with Your Program Officer


Now once you have this information, what should you do with it? First, you should email your Program Officer to introduce yourself and thank them for their support. You will want to establish a positive and productive relationship from the get-go and then continue this engagement throughout your project period. This is because not only can Program Officers provide valuable insights and guidance on how to best navigate the NIH grant system but they also connect you with other resources and experts within the NIH who can assist you in advancing your research and technology. And that’s just the start of what Program Officers can do for you!


Example Roles of NIH Program Officers


The Program Officers bring a wealth of knowledge and they want to make sure you succeed in your proposed efforts. They are also aware of other things going on behind the scenes at the NIH agency and may even bring upcoming opportunities to your attention if they think they are a good fit. For example, some of my awarded clients have informed me that the Program Officer may inform them of upcoming funding opportunities that they encouraged them to apply for.


Additionally, if you encounter any problems or have questions about your grant, don't hesitate to seek advice from your Program Officer. You will want to keep your Program Officer informed of any significant developments, such as changes in the project scope or delays since they can guide you on how to overcome these obstacles as well.


These are just some examples of how Program Officers can play a big role in your SBIR project. Take the time to engage with your Program officer right off the bat and continue to establish a positive and productive relationship with them so that you can make maximize the value of your SBIR grant award!



Keep The No-Cost Extension In Mind


My second secret is to be aware of the No-Cost Extension! The No-Cost Extension, or NCE, can be an important tool for Principal Investigators and Start-up Founders to be aware of when completing their projects within the set timeline of their NIH SBIR award.


If you have seen some of my videos on Youtube, you already know that you can propose a project timeline of 6-12 months for your Phase I SBIR application and then a project timeline of up to 2 years for Phase II. But as with many things in life, projects can take longer than expected!


Sometimes experiments may not turn out as planned and you may need to pivot your original strategy. Other times, a collaboration or partnership may have fallen through or failed to deliver results. Unfortunately, these things just happen!


And so, it’s likely you may need more time to complete your proposed efforts. That’s when the No-Cost Extension can be a helpful tool that comes into play!


What is a No-Cost Extension?


A No-Cost Extension is an extension of the project period for an NIH SBIR award that allows the Principal Investigator to continue working on the project beyond the original end date without any additional funding. Essentially, an NCE allows the PI to extend the project period to complete the proposed work and achieve the project's goals without incurring additional costs.


Requesting a No-Cost Extension


The NCE request should be submitted to the NIH at least 30 days before the original end date of the grant. You will also want to speak to your Program Officer about the NCE before making the request so they are aware of this as well. Requesting an NCE can be done with just the click of a button. However, there may be times you may be required to include a justification for the extension or a detailed plan for completing the proposed work, so you should be prepared to provide that information.


The NCE is usually granted for up to 12 months which means you can actually extend your proposed project for another year if needed. And in some instances, you can even ask for a second NCE to extend it to another additional 12 months if needed. These are other instances in which you will want to engage with your Program Officer because they will be the best ones to advise how to go about the NCE based on your specific situation.


Now, it is important to note that an NCE does not provide additional funding to the grant and the Principal Investigator is required to continue working within the original budget of the grant. NCEs are there to provide additional time to complete the proposed work and achieve the project's goals, which can be critical in cases where unexpected delays or setbacks have occurred.



Utilize the TABA Program


My third secret that NIH SBIR awardees should know is about the TABA program! The TABA program is designed to provide critical support and resources to start-ups offering technical and business assistance to help start-ups advance their research and development efforts and prepare for commercialization. This is an opportunity where you can get additional funding for your SBIR grant!


Overview of the TABA Program


TABA stands for Technical and Business Assistance, which is a program offered by the NIH as part of their SBIR and STTR programs. So, yes you have to have an SBIR award to qualify! NIH Phase I SBIR awardees can request up to $6,500 for TABA support and Phase II SBIR awardees can request up to $50,000 across all years.


Some examples of the technical assistance provided through the TABA program include helping start-ups with:

  • Assistance with product sales

  • Intellectual property protections

  • Market research and/or validation

  • Development of regulatory plans

  • Development of manufacturing plans, and

  • Access to technical and business literature available through online databases

Requesting TABA


To request TABA, you must first identify a 3rd party that specializes in offering TABA support and hash out what the funds will be used for. Next, you will need to submit an application requesting this funding support along with a justification of the breakdown as to what the funds will be used for.


This is yet another instance where you want to speak to your Program Officer about how to best go about requesting TABA because the required documents for this submission may vary from agency to agency.


Maximizing Your SBIR Grant Award: Key Takeaways


Overall, it is important to keep in mind that just because you have secured your SBIR Grant Award doesn’t mean the hard work is finished. In fact, it is only the beginning.


Throughout your journey to bring your innovative idea to the market, you’ll likely have a few obstacles to overcome. By creating a good relationship with your Program Officer, knowing that you can request a No Cost Extension, and utilizing the TABA Program, as a Founder, you can efficiently lead your team to success no matter the hurdles that are thrown at you.


Now that you know these three secrets, you can make the most of this amazing opportunity! And again, congratulations! Have questions? Leave them in the comments below!

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