The Deadline is Not Final


The NIH will bend over backwards to accept your late application for up to two weeks beyond the deadline. As long as you can give a plausible reason, they will accept the application. The closer to the original deadline, the more likely they are to accept the application.

Always try to be on time because the NIH is under no obligation to accept your late application. If you are late for some reason, by all means submit anyways and include a letter of explanation. The reviewers will not know that the application was late. Basically, only Receipt and Referral will know this.

You can also change your application up to two weeks after the submission deadline. Simply resubmit it with your corrections and include a letter of explanation. This letter will not go to reviewers; it will only be seen by Receipt and Referral. Make sure the reason is sound.

You can change just about anything in the application, including the Title. Such changes are not unusual, so do not be shy about taking advantage of this opportunity; but remember that your best bet for success in any endeavor is to plan ahead and be on time.

Just as a point of clarification, there is a two day window for correcting an application before the deadline. If you use this two day window, you do not have to provide an explanation. However, you can send in corrections after this two day window for up to two weeks beyond the submission deadline as long as you provide a letter with a plausible reason for why you were late.

In some cases you can make corrections even later than this. Check with your program officer and SRO for help in this matter. Sometimes you can also make changes as part of a Supplementary Material package. But here, you will have to put the change in the context of new information, so it will not be possible to change a title for example (You would be surprised how often this type of change is requested!), but you could send in new preliminary data and as part of that in order to correct errors in the previous preliminary data, just do not put it in terms of a correction.

Most SROs will not allow you to actually correct information in your Supplementary Material package so be careful how you present corrective material, although some SROs will allow corrective material. If you already know the SRO you will already know what kind of Supplementary data will be allowed.

For more tips, click on this link : High Level SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Techniques.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or go to

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Reviewer Comments


Typical Reviewer Comments About Strong SBIR/STTR Applications:
This project addresses an important need in improving human health.
This project offers significant advantages over existing methods.
Test of feasibility are clear.
The applicant has addressed the concerns raised in the previous review.
It is clear from the preliminary data that there is a high probability of success.

Typical Reviewer Comments About Weak SBIR/STTR Applications:

Significance is not clear.
Experimental details are lacking.
Tests of feasibility are not clear.
The team lacks experience in the field.
The rationale for the stated experiments is not clear.

For more tips on this subject, click on this link : High Level SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Techniques.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or go to

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The Reviewer Missed That!


Ever notice how the reviewers seem to miss key info? At every review meeting I have attended, it is clear that most reviewers are missing key details in applications.

For the most part reviewers are diligent and work hard. They have 9 applications to get through in a short period of time. When you write your application you must think in these terms.

Do you know what an elevator speech is? When you pitch your business idea to a venture capital group, you will be asked to start with an elevator speech. This is a 1 minute speech (the time you would have in an elevator) to present your main idea, why it is worth pursuing, you have the right team, and how you will accomplish the main idea (specific aim).

Before you write your application, come up with an elevator speech. Hone this speech such that you could give it to your grandmother (the one who is not a scientist) so that she would understand it.

When you write your application, keep the essentials of this speech in mind and build out from there. Do not weave a web that is too complex or you will lose the reviewer and the reviewer will miss information.

In your application, you only need to give the essentials that are needed to understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how you will do it. You do not need every detail and you do not have to be exhaustive. You only need enough detail to allow the reviewer to understand that the product will have impact, you know the field, you can accomplish the task, and how you will accomplish the task.

From my experience, the above paragraph is a key paragraph for writing grant applications that will have a higher chance of being funded.

One more key concept: Reviewers read the first sentence in a paragraph and they often skip the last several sentences in a long paragraph. Therefore always start the paragraph with the most important sentence; never build the paragraph up to the most important sentence.

If you follow these tips, you will greatly reduce how often reviewers miss key information in your grant application.

For more tips on this subject, click on this link : High Level SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Techniques.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or go to

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Never Be Unscored


Applications are reviewed by at least three people. The applications receive a preliminary priority score. At the review meeting, applications are discussed and following the discussion they are given a final priority score by all reviewers who are present during those discussions. However, 50%-60% of applications are never discussed and therefore never receive a final score. These applications are unscored. If your application has intrinsic significance and your team is capable of achieving your specific aim, then your application should never be unscored. This is where grant writing comes into play.


Only 15% of Phase I applications and 30% of Phase II applications are funded. The top 5% of applications are clear standouts in terms of scoring. The next 35% contains applications that were determined to be of generally equal merit. The disucssion among reviewers will determnine which of these applications will get the best priorty scores. Applications in the bottom 50% have no chance of achieving a fundable score, no matter how much discussion takes place. Therefore, the limited time available to the review panel is focused on the applications that are competitive for funding, which means no discussion of the bottom 50%-60%. This does not mean that those ideas have no merit; it only means that in relation to the other applications, their merit was deemed to be less.

The bottom 50%-60% is arrived at using an algorithm. First the applications are divided into two separate groups: Phase I and Phase II applications. SBIRs are grouped with STTRs for this algorithm. The preliminary scores for each application are averaged. Each application now has a single average score. Applications are sorted best score to worst score. The bottom 60% of applications is put into an unscored category. Next, the score of the 10th percentile application is looked at. Any application in the unscored category that any single reviewer scored at a value equal to or better than the average score of the 10th percentile application is pulled out of the unscored category and is discussed.

At the beginning of the review meeting, any reviewer may ask for any application to be removed from the unscored category for reasons of scientific and technical merit, but not for any other reason. This happens on occasion, but not usually.


In my experience, less than 5% of applications do not have significance or a team that can accomplish the stated goals. In other words, 95% of applications all have a shot at funding based on their intrinsic significance and qualifications of the research team.

I hope that you can understand what a great opportunity this is for a skilled scientist with a great idea and the desire to carry out that idea. This is relatively free and easy money if you write your application well in terms of what it takes to convey significance and probability of success to the reviewers. But this is where 90% of applications fail.

It is my experience that applicants need help finalizing their applications. If this were not the case, then the primary factor for funding would be scientific and technical merit; however, most would agree, the primary factor for funding is grantsmanship.

It is true that there is a definite roulette component to priority scores in terms of who reviews your application and in what order it is read by that reviewer; however by writing your applications better, you should be able to receive funding 70% of the time, as long as everyone else does not also write as well as you do, in terms of grantsmanship...and believe me they will not write as well as you do if you hire the right professional to help write/edit your application.

You should never hire someone to write the whole application. You should always write the first draft, at least. Then go through four or more iterations of drafts with the professional.

This process will give you an advantage over most other applicants. It is well worth the money, costing less than $1600. This is a bargain when you consider the time savings and funding that it can secure.

Remember, your friend or colleague will never put in the same effort that a professional will. The professional is trying to earn a living; your colleague is trying to be nice.

Try one or two different professionals. If I am one of them, and you believe that your money was not well spent, I will refund your money, and I will give you an additional $1000. I can offer you this because I have a 100% satisfaction rate. In fact, you can try my services for free. Send me your Project Summary (abstract), I will rewrite/edit it and then you can judge for yourself.

Remember, there is no reason to have a high percentage of your applications go unfunded and certainly no reason for your application to be unscored, as long as it has intrinsic significance and you are an expert in the field of your application.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or go to

Click on this link to read about my E-Book: High Level SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Techniques.

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Budget: Salary


Budgets are treated as an administrative aspect of the review. The budget is not a score driving item. In fact, the budget is not discussed until after scoring is completed for each application.

Nonetheless, if you pad your budget you risk incurring some wrath, which could affect your score. If you annoy a reviewer by asking for unwarranted funds, this can affect how the reviewer approaches the rest of your application. Some costs are easy to estimate. Some costs are difficult to estimate. For difficult to estimate costs, it is a common practice to estimate your costs and then add 20-50% more. But be forewarned about adding too much extra into your budget items.

Reviewers are picky about budgets, but they are also fair. They know what it takes to get studies done, but they also know how to pad a budget beyond what is reasonable, so, while being fair to ones self, still be cautious about asking for far too much.

PI Salary: The maximum salary is about $186,600 per year. This is a lot of money. It is unwise to ask for this amount unless you are very senior and have an MD or similar degree, you work at a medical school in a clinical and research situation. Unfair? Perhaps, but most full professors do not earn any where near that much and unless you are more qualified than they are, it might be best to ask for less than the maximum amount.

So how much is right? It depends. If you are a one to three person entity and you are the founder, then $90K-$120K is about right, if you also have over 10 years of successful experience beyond the post-doctoral level.

In order to ask for more than $120K, you have to be quite accomplished and quite senior working at a small but established company that is earning a living beyond SBIRs. Under such circumstances it is understood that higher salaries are the norm.

It is a hard sell for a person a few years out of a post-doctoral position to be asking for a salary of over $90k for their own personal start-up company.

On the other hand, you can ask for a 7% fee for the whole project, which can be put toward anything, including a bonus paid to your self.

A Phase I SBIR is usually 150K-200K ($100K and 6 months is an old guideline that is no longer followed). That is not a bad bonus for 6-12 months of effort. On top of that you can ask for fringe benefits of up to 50% of your salary, as long as you can justify the fringe benefits. That is not a bad living.

For SBIR/STTRs you can leave the Fringe Benefits section of the Budget blank and incorporate them into Indirect Costs. Your fringe benefits will be a small percent of the total Indirect Costs, which can be up to 40% of the Direct Costs. This is advantageous because you can give yourself realistic but generous Fringe Benefits and it will not be a red flagged by reviewers. Be realistic in what you ask for as Fringe Benefits because you will have to itemize the Fringe Benefits for the program officer once your grant is funded, especially if you ask for the full 40% in indirect costs.

Fringe benefits: this can include many things such as matching contributions for your 401K. Do you know what you can do in terms of a 401K for a single proprietorship LLC? Look it up on the web-it is very generous. Taking any courses? Use fringe benefits to pay for these. Get the best medical and dental that you could imagine. In terms of life insurance, whole life is frowned upon, but if paid for by fringe benefits from SBIR/STTRs it is an incredible deal, it is like a free extra 401K. Look carefully on the web and consult a good accountant or financial planner to learn how to take full advantage of the SBIR/STTR fringe benefits package that you design.

With a salary of $80K you can do quite well when all of your fringe benefits and the 7% fee are added in. Base salary + fringe benefits + fee= 80 + 40 +10 =$130K. That is not too bad.

It is easy to justify the fringe benefits, so do not be greedy on the salary and annoy reviewers unnecessarily.

Let the writing and the merits of your application do the work for you, do not work against yourself. Good-luck!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or go to

Click on this link to read about my E-Book: High Level SBIR/STTR Grant Writing Techniques.

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