Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR)

Top eRA Commons Errors

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These top five eRA Commons errors account for approximately 80% of the total errors for SBIR/STTR grant submissions

Developing an NIH SBIR or STTR grant application requires a lot of hard work and multiple steps. Once you’ve written your application, you must be able to successfully submit it electronically and error-free so NIH can review it.  

Take some time to review these top five eRA Commons Submission errors in advance of the next NIH SBIR/STTR deadline. Doing so will help save precious time and ensure your application moves forward for review.

Please use the Annotated SF424 Form set for SBIR/STTR applications, located here, along with these tips to guide you during the electronic submission process. The annotated form set provides step-by-step instructions of which fields to complete and aligns with the information below. 

Top 5 eRA Commons Submission Errors:

Error #1: Each Senior/Key Person listed must include effort of value > 0 in calendar months, or academic and summer months

  • It’s okay to put 0 dollars (no salary), but NOT 0 effort.
  • Be sure to describe the source of key personnel funding in the Budget Justification if $0 salary is listed.

Error #2: All application attachments must be in PDF format

  • Use simple PDF-formatted files (no Word files)
    • Do not use Portfolio or similar feature to bundle multiple files into a single PDF
    • Disable security features such as password protection
  • Keep file names to 50 characters or less and use only letters, numbers, underscore, hyphen, space and period
  • Use meaningful filenames and follow guidelines for fonts and margins
  • Do not include headers or footers

Error #3: eRA Commons username must be supplied in the Credential field of Senior/Key Person Page

  • For multiple PD/PI applications, select the PD/PI role for each PI and provide their eRA Commons username in the Credential field of Senior/Key Person Page
  • This field is required for NIH grant submissions.

Error #4: NIH requires the Organization name for all Senior/Key listed. The application pre-populates for PI, but NOT other key personnel

Error #5: The Federal Identifier on the Cover Page should include only the IC and serial number of the prior grant number

  • Federal Identifier: If box 1=Application and box 8=New, then leave blank
  • If box 1=Changed/Corrected and box 8=New, then enter previous tracking number
  • Otherwise, use Institute and serial # of previous NIH grant/app (e.g., use CA987654 from 1R43CA987654-01)
Other helpful tips to remember:
  • Corrective submissions must be made BEFORE the submission deadline and overwrite previous submissions.
    • Errors stop application processing and must be corrected
    • Warnings do not stop application processing and are corrected at the discretion of the applicant
  • Talk to an NIH Program Officer about your application and SUBMIT EARLY (days not hours and minutes)!
  • If you have questions, please contact the eRA Commons Help Desk:
  • Toll-free: 1-866-504-9552
  • Phone: 301-402-7469
  • Hours : Mon-Fri, 7a.m. to 8 p.m. ET

Don’t wait until the last minute to try and submit your application electronically. Registration itself can take between 6-8 weeks, and any application submission error can keep your application from processing. Plan ahead to ensure your application moves forward successfully and reduce last minute submission stress.