Electronic Submission Process
The electronic application submission process for NIH SBIR and STTR grants is multi-step and can take between six to eight weeks. Each small business concern must complete five registrations, so it is important to start the process early. Applicants must use two separate registration systems, Grants.gov and eRA Commons, which is NIH's system for grants administration. Each system has its own registration and application requirements that must be met for successful grant submission.
Please find more information about each of the steps below.
Prepare to Apply
Complete Five Registrations and Develop A Submission Plan
The registration process alone may take six to eight weeks, so it’s important to start early! All registrations must be completed prior to the application being submitted. It’s also important to make a submission plan that outlines the application preparation responsibilities, internal review and approval processes, internal deadlines, and post-submission responsibilities.
Each role in the submission process carries specific responsibilities. Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs) work with their institute or organization to prepare the application, and pass the completed application on to their Authorized Organization Representative (AOR). Only AORs have the ability to actually submit a grant application to NIH via Grants.gov. Please click here for more detailed information about the various roles in the submission process.
The SF424 SBIR/STTR (R&R) Application Guide, located here, contains registration and application instructions. We strongly recommend that you use the SBIR/STTR Annotated Form Set, found here, to guide you step-by-step through the submission process.
Five Registrations Overview:
- Dun and Bradstreet Universal Numbering System (DUNS) – All registrations require that applicants be issued a DUNS number. After obtaining a DUNS number, applicants can begin SAM, SBA Company, and eRA Commons registrations.
Employer Identification Number (EIN) – The NIH requires both the EIN and a DUNS number prior to the issuance of a funding award. The EIN base for the organization is the IRS Tax ID number, for individuals it is their social security number, both of which are nine-digit numbers.
System for Award Management (SAM) – SAM combines federal procurement systems and replaced CCR in July 2012. It can take a significant amount of time (days/weeks) in some scenarios to complete the registration or annual renewal process.
- The annual renewal process may require as much time as the initial registration. Please be sure to initiate your SAM registration or annual renewal at least 6 weeks prior to you submission date.
SAM registration is required for Grants.gov prior to submission.
Grants.gov – Grants.gov is a federal-wide portal to find and apply for federal grant funding. It is used by all 26 federal grant-making agencies and requires registration by the applicant organization. The applicant organization will need to designate an E-Business Point of Contact (E-Biz POC). The E-Biz POC will approve Authorized Organization Representatives (AORs) to submit applications.
eRA Commons – eRA Commons is NIH’s Electronic Research Administration system that allows applicants, grantees, and NIH staff to access, share and transmit application/grant information.
- eRA Commons requires registration by both the applicant organization and the Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PD/PIs). The organization’s Authorized Organizational Representative (also known at NIH as the Signing Official) must register or affiliate the PD/PI(s).
- To check if the organization is already registered, go to the List of Commons Registered Organizations.
- Register in Commons
- NIH demo on registering in Commons
- SBA Company Registry – All applicants are required to register at the SBA Company Registry prior to application submission and attach proof of registration in the Other Project Information, Other Attachments section of the application.
Please contact the eRA Commons helpdesk if you have problems with any of the registration steps:
Hours: Mon-Fri, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time, except for federal holidays. Find more information here.
Find and Prepare an Application
- To search for a Funding Opportunity, please use Search Grants. If you know the Funding Opportunity Number you wish to download, please download a grant application package.
- Downloading a grant application package allows you to complete it offline and route it through your organization for review before submitting. You will need to ensure your Adobe software is compatible with Grants.gov.
- Instructions on how to open and use the forms in the Grants.gov package are on the application package cover sheet. You MUST also use the SF424 SBIR/STTR (R&R) Application Guide to view NIH’s specific instructions. Be sure to check the FOA due dates, and the FOA specific application and submission information.
**An error-free application in Grants.gov DOES NOT guarantee an error-free application in eRA Commons, since eRA Commons has NIH-specific application requirements that do not apply to Grants.gov**
Download a Grant Application Package
- Now that you have downloaded an application package, complete the grant application offline. Save changes to your application as you go, Grants.gov does NOT automatically save changes.
- The package cannot be submitted until all Grants.gov required fields have been completed, but Grants.gov does NOT check for NIH-specific requirements. You will need to use the SF424 SBIR/STTR (R&R) Application Guide to understand the agency-specific instructions, which are marked with the HHS logo. You will have to complete the SF424 (R&R) forms, as well as the PHS 398 forms which includes NIH-specific requirements for successful submission.
Creating PDFs as Attachments
- As part of the application process, you will have to develop and attach several different documents that MUST be saved as PDFs. Please read “Format Specifications for Text (PDF) Attachments” in the SF424 SBIR/STTR (R&R) Application Guide for more information.
**All of your application attachments MUST be in PDF format with the correct filename. All filenames must be included with no special characters (including brackets), and a .pdf extension must be used.**
- About Page Limits: Make sure you follow all of the page limits for the PDF attachments. NIH will conduct validations to ensure these limits are met.
- Common Application Errors: As you’re developing your application and getting ready to submit, please take the time to review some of the common application errors so you can be prepared.
- Creating PDFs as Attachments: As part of the application process, you will have to develop and attach several different documents that MUST be saved as PDFs. Please read “Format Specifications for Text (PDF) Attachments” for more information.
Submit, Track and View Application
- Submit the Completed Grant Application Package on Grants.gov The Authorized Organization Representative (AOR) (known at NIH as the Signing Official [SO]) must log into Grants.gov. The AOR must enter in all the necessary information, check the package for Grants.gov errors and save the package, then click the "Save & Submit" button on the cover page. The application package will automatically be uploaded to Grants.gov.
- Track the Status of a Submitted Grant Application Package After successful Grants.gov submission, the application will be scheduled for download into the eRA system for agency validation. The PD/PI and the AOR/SO should log on the eRA Commons to view the assembled application or review the list of warnings/errors that were encountered during the validation process.
**Errors DO STOP the application from processing, but warnings DO NOT**
Correct Errors if Necessary:
- Submit the Completed Grant Application Package on Grants.gov If necessary, make corrections to the data within the application forms to correct the problem or inconsistency that was noted in eRA Commons. When you resubmit, you must check the “Changed/Corrected Application” box in Item 1 of the SF424 (R&R) Cover form.”
- Viewing Window: After successful error-free submission, an application image will be assembled by the eRA Commons. PD/PIs and AORs/SOs will have two business days to check the assembled application. During this two-day viewing window, PD/PIs and AORs/SOs can reject the application, or let it automatically move forward to NIH staff for further processing and consideration.
Congratulations – You Have Successfully Submitted an NIH SBIR or STTR Grant Application! It will now move forward to peer review.