The Project Pitch as a Gateway for an NSF Phase I SBIR/STTR

October 30, 2020

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a great source of funding for many small businesses. However, before you submit a full Phase I SBIR/STTR proposal, your Project Pitch must be approved by an NSF Program Director (PD). In this post, we discuss how to prepare a successful Project Pitch.

What is the deadline for the Pitch?

A Project Pitch can be submitted at any time. However, the NSF has four administrative windows annually, and you can only submit one pitch on a given topic for each window. (See the list of dates corresponding to the submission windows.) Having an existing NSF SBIR/STTR grant does not prevent you from submitting a Project Pitch, as long as there is no overlap between the work you are proposing and the work in your existing grant.

Composing your Project Pitch

The Project Pitch is divided into four main sections:

Technology Innovation. In this section, define the problem you are addressing and explain how your product will provide a unique solution. Discuss the societal and commercial significance of the problem, who it impacts, and why current solutions are inadequate. Highlight how your solution is innovative and has differential advantages over what is currently available.

Technical Objectives and Challenges. Specify the technical goals of the Phase I project, how you plan to achieve them, and your metrics of success. Include any preliminary data or other background information that substantiates the technical path you are proposing.  Provide this information in the context of how Phase I will de-risk your technology so that you will be competitive for a subsequent Phase II grant to further develop your product.

Market Opportunity.  Indicate your direct and indirect customers (both those who will directly buy your product as well as who will ultimately use it), the current market size, its projected growth, and its geographical distribution. If the market is very large, identify the subsection you will target for your initial customer base. Explain your product’s advantages over competitive technologies. Identify the specific problems (i.e., pain points) that your customers currently face and how your product will solve those problems.

Company and Team. Discuss your company’s history and mission. Include your company’s organizational structure, the number of employees, and its current and projected revenue stream. Introduce your team and provide a justification for why they are qualified to successfully develop and commercialize your proposed project.  Provide the qualifications and expertise of the Principal Investigator and key scientists in your proposed topic area.  In addition to the scientific team, include business advisors, individuals with entrepreneurial experience, and other employees and consultants who will contribute to the product’s successful development and commercialization.

Submit your Project Pitch

Submit your Project Pitch using the NSF’s Project Pitch submission website. You will provide basic company information and indicate your Technology Topic Area. You will be asked how you heard about the NSF SBIR/STTR program; a brief statement will suffice. After submission, you will receive an email confirmation with your assigned Project Pitch submission number.

What happens next?

Once you’ve submitted your pitch, you will hear back within three few weeks. There are three possible outcomes for your submission:

  • The pitch is accepted, and you are invited to submit a full application. After acceptance, you have up to one year to submit your full proposal. Make a PDF of your acceptance email – you need to include a copy of it as part of the full application.
  • The pitch is rejected. If this happens, you can resubmit a revised version of your pitch during the next submission window using the feedback provided by the Program Director.
  • The pitch is not initially accepted, but you are asked to provide additional information to the PD for clarification before a final decision is made. In this case, make sure that you carefully address the PD’s questions to increase your chance of having your pitch accepted.

You can post any questions that you have about developing a competitive Project Pitch to our SBIRLand Forum, and one of our experts will reply. 

Good luck with your Pitch!

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