August 6, 2020
Previously, we released a post discussing success rates. Success rates vary by year, depending on funding available and the numbers of applications, but have generally ~12-20% of NIH SBIR/STTR proposals have been funded each year since 2009 (see chart below).
Unlike success rates, which indicate the percentage of proposals funded in a fiscal year, paylines are used to determine whether an NIH institute or center (IC) will fund a proposal, based on the overall impact / priority score (“impact score”) that a proposal receives during review. Once the impact scores have been released, paylines define the impact score that you typically must be at, or below, to be recommended for funding.
Many ICs (including NIA, NINDS, NIDDK, NIBIB, NIDA, NCATS, etc.) do not publish specific paylines for SBIR/STTRs; however, the available NIH payline data for several ICs are listed in the table below:
Note that NHLBI has a Zone of Consideration for Phase I STTR, rather than a payline. If your impact score is in this zone, you MAY be funded. Final award decisions related to zones of consideration are based on a variety of criteria relevant to scientific merit, program balance, and strategic priorities.
If your impact score is not under the payline, but is close, there is still hope! ICs can fund applications above the payline based on the IC’s budget and funding priorities. Regardless of the institute’s payline, it is worthwhile to reach out to your program officer (PO) for feedback once you receive a summary statement (typically a few weeks after your impact score is released). The PO assigned to your proposal can give you specific feedback on your summary statement as well as next steps for funding or advice on a resubmission.
More information on NIH paylines and success rates can be found here.