Electronic Submission Process for Grants
The electronic application submission process for HHS SBIR and STTR grants is multi-step. It can take six to eight weeks to complete the five registrations required prior to application submission. Although there are several submission options available, most small business applicants will submit their application using ASSIST or the downloadable forms method. With either method, applicants must check eRA Commons to ensure that NIH has successfully received their application.
Please contact the eRA Service Desk if you have problems with registration or electronic submission:
Please find more information about each of the steps below.
Prepare to Apply
- Confirm your small business meets all eligibility requirements.
- Develop an innovative research idea for your small business. We strongly recommend that you discuss your research idea with the agency contact or NIH Institute or Center (IC) SBIR/STTR program manager that is most closely related to your research topic.
Complete Five Registrations
The registration process alone may take six to eight weeks, so it is important to start early! All registrations must be completed prior to the application being submitted.
Each role in the submission process carries specific responsibilities. The Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) will work with the applicant small business 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. Please click here for more detailed information about the various roles in 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) – HHS 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 can take a significant amount of time (days/weeks) 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 six weeks prior to your 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 Organization 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.
Submit via ASSIST or the Downloadable Forms Method
Applicants may submit their application using ASSIST or the downloadable forms method.
You will need to find an SBIR/STTR Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) using either the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, the SBIR/STTR Funding page, or the Grants.gov Search page. Once you do this, within the FOA, you will select either the "Apply Online Using ASSIST" button, or "Apply Using Downloadable Forms" button, depending on your submission preference.
With either method, please refer to the SF424 SBIR/STTR (R&R) Application Guide, located here, which contains registration and application instructions. The SBIR/STTR Annotated Form Set, found here, can help guide you step-by-step through the grant application, and help you identify many HHS-specific application requirements.
ASSIST (Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking) is NIH's online system for the preparation, submission, and tracking of grant applications through Grants.gov to NIH. It was created to help streamline the electronic submission process, and allows the submission status of your application to be tracked in both Grants.gov and eRA Commons.
- Secure web-based data entry
- Collaboration of multiple users
- Pre-submission validation of many HHS and Grants.gov business rules
- Pre-population of data from eRA Commons profiles
- Pre-submission print/preview of application in HHS format
- Submission status tracking for both Grants.gov and eRA Commons within a single system
- Ability to import subaward budget data from external sources
- Ability to copy application data (and attachments) from one announcement to another
The ASSIST webinar was held on November 4, 2015. Please find the resources below.
- ASSIST Webinar Slides
- ASSIST Overview , ASSIST Demo , and Q&A Recording on YouTube
- Additional ASSIST Resources
Additional resources are available to help applicants prepare their applications using ASSIST:
- Getting Started: Preparing Your Single-project Application Using ASSIST
- ASSIST Online Help System
- eRA Service Desk
For more information, view the NOT-OD-15-156.
The downloadable forms require you to download a grant package from Grants.gov, and upload PDF attachments of your application components. You then must submit via Grants.gov, and log-onto eRA Commons to ensure successful submission. We strongly recommend that you use the SBIR/STTR Annotated Form Set, found here, to guide you step-by-step through the submission process.
**An error-free application in Grants.gov DOES NOT guarantee an error-free application in eRA Commons, since eRA Commons has HHS-specific application requirements that do not apply to Grants.gov**
- To search for a Funding Opportunity, you can use the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts, the SBIR/STTR Funding page, or the Grants.gov Search page to search for an active Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). Once you have found an FOA, you can click on the "Apply Using Downloadable Forms" button within the FOA to download the grants 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 the HHS specific instructions. Be sure to check the FOA due dates, and the FOA specific application and submission information.
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 HHS-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 HHS-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. HHS 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. ASSIST performs a pre-submission validation of many HHS and Grants.gov business rules, which helps applicants reduce the number of electronic submission errors.
- 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]) will hit the “Submit” button, and be prompted to enter their login information and agree to the terms of the application. Once confirmed, the application is 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 your ASSIST application or the application on your local computer (if submitting using downloadable forms) to correct the problem or inconsistency that was noted in eRA Commons. You will also need to check the “Changed/Corrected Application” box in Item 1 of the SF424 (R&R) Cover form and provide the Previous Grants.gov Tracking ID. The AOR must submit and track the corrected application back through Grants.gov to eRA Commons.
- 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 HHS staff for further processing and consideration.
Congratulations – You Have Successfully Submitted an HHS SBIR or STTR Grant Application! It will now move forward to peer review.