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    What questions do you have about the NSF?

    SBIR newbie

    I just submitted my project pitch. Does anyone know how long it usually takes to hear back?



    Responses to project pitches typically come in within 3 weeks of submission.
    More information on pitch guidelines can be found here:

    Let me know if there are any other questions, happy to help!


    Usually, you will hear back from NSF within three weeks.


    From my understanding, NSF has changed their perspectives/focus over the past decade. NSF used to be focused on driving fundamental understanding/science, but now it seems now they have shifted that perspective – one of which is venturing into Biomedical Technologies.

    A few questions:
    1. How do we write a proposal to differentiate from the NIH SBIR proposals? Would adding small clinical studies be okay to solve an engineering problem, or should we keep that off the proposal?
    2. What sorts of specific aims would the NSF like to see?
    – One specific aim focuses on standard engineering efforts which just requires cash. Straightforward and clear path to complete – but absolutely essential.
    – Other specific aims are developing something new and novel.


    Hi Josh,

    These are excellent questions. In addition to Biomedical Technologies, NSF has also creased a Pharmaceutical Technologies topic area.

    1. Given the broadening of the topic areas of interest for NSF, there will begin to be more overlap with NIH. The best way to find out if a small clinical study would be appropriate for these new topics areas would be to reach out to the program officers: Henry Ahn ( for BT and Alastair Monk ( for PT. We highly recommend talking to program officers well in advance of submission to ensure your proposal aligns with the agency’s goals, as they can change.

    2. NSF SBIR proposals are structured by Technical Objectives (similar to Specific Aims with NIH). Again, talk with the program officer about your project’s goals. Typically, NSF proposal include engineering objectives, but it is also paramount for the technology to be novel and innovative. Combining basic engineering to push your innovative technology toward commercialization is one option (ie. using traditional methods to create a novel device).

    Please let me know if you have additional questions!


    I am preparing an NSF Phase I SBIR application and am concerned whether any parts of the application will be made publicly available. Can you provide information on whether the application is completely confidential or if parts will be disclosed to the public?


    Hello! According to the NSF solicitation, “A proposal is confidential and will only be shared with a small number of reviewers and NSF staff (as appropriate). Proposals to NSF do not constitute a public disclosure. If chosen for a Phase I award, a company will be prompted to write a project summary and description of intellectual merit and broader impact for the public. Proposals WILL NOT be shared.”

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