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June 25, 2024 | Tom Ballard

National Science Foundation launches “Fast-Track” SBIR and STTR initiative

The program is limited to those who have received research funding from NSF within five years of the proposal submission date.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) announced on Tuesday that it had launched a pilot initiative for start-ups and small businesses to develop new products and services based on prior NSF-funded research. Eligible companies can submit one proposal for more than $2 million for a “Fast-Track” award to support research and development activities that may take up to three years to complete.

“NSF invests in startups and small businesses that bring the most innovative, cutting-edge technologies to the market and society,” said Barry Johnson, Division Director of Translational Impacts in the NSF Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP). “These companies have the potential to become great commercial successes and contribute significantly to economic growth and job creation throughout the nation. With this pilot, we are excited to provide a more rapid and seamless pathway for startups and small businesses to obtain the research and development funding that they need to accelerate product development.”

Unlike NSF’s traditional Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs that require multiple proposal submissions to receive an equivalent amount of investment, the NSF SBIR/STTR Fast-Track award provides an immediate pathway to a full funding commitment of more than $2 million over three years. Typically, NSF SBIR and STTR funding is a two-step process: a start-up or small business first applies for and receives a Phase I award and, after successful completion of the Phase I award, is eligible to apply for a Phase II award to continue its research and development activities.

In contrast, the SBIR/STTR Fast-Track pilot operates by requiring periodic reviews that can trigger more than $2 million per project, reducing administrative burden for both small businesses and NSF, and focusing on what matters most: getting innovations from the lab to the market and society.

To be eligible for the SBIR/STTR Fast-Track pilot, start-ups and small businesses must:

  • Receive an official invitation via the Project Pitch process to submit a Fast-Track proposal.
  • Propose research and development stemming from research funded by NSF within five years before the proposal submission date.
  • Have completed formal customer discovery training not more than two years prior to the Fast-Track proposal submission date — see the solicitation for details.
  • Have a core team in place at the time of proposal submission. Fast-Track proposals cannot be based on “to be hired” personnel.

More information about program requirements and submission deadlines can be found in the SBIR/STTR Fast-Track pilot solicitation.

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