The Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBDTC) recently held a symposium on the Small Business and Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs through the government. For new and established businesses, these programs can be excellent sources of grants to fund research and innovation. Today, I’m going to highlight key points from the symposium that are helpful when considering your different funding sources for a mobile or software application project.

First, if you’re unfamiliar with the SBDTC, they are a fantastic resource for North Carolina based companies that need solid business advisors, whether just starting out or working through more complicated matters such as international trade and exports. I highly recommend learning more and applying to chat with an advisor.

Don’t judge an agency by its name

Now let’s dig into the SBIR and STTR programs. The main difference between the two is that SBIR grants typically do not require collaboration with a research institution, while STTR grants do. In the Triangle area that could be NC State University, Duke University or the University of North Carolina. For the purpose of this article, and the content at the symposium, I’m going to focus on SBIRs. There are several different agencies that participate in the program outlined on the SBIR website. One key point made at the symposium is that we shouldn’t judge an agency by its name. Often times your project might line up perfectly with the Department of Energy (DoE) but could also qualify for support from the Department of Defense (DoD) or the National Science Foundation (NSF). With the DoD, there are 13 components, meaning the Army, Navy, etc. all have different topics. The important part is to adapt your project submission to the fit the agency need.

Don’t miss the deadline!

Each agency operates on different grants cycles and with different topics of interest for each cycle. For example, the DoD just released the latest round of topics ready for review and submission. While the USDA solicitation period for Phase I has already happened for this year, Phase II is open and available until March 2, 2018. Again, it’s very important to learn and understand how the agency operates so you don’t miss key dates and requirements.

Read all the things

Get to know the agency, their mission and goal for each topic. Read all the way through the solicitation, topic AND any possible submission guides. For example, the USDA has the SBIR solicitation on their website with specifics and guidelines in the RFA but there is also an application guide that lists all of the necessary application requirements. Each agency is different and may have different guides, so break out your search Google skills and scour the sites to learn more. A Google search for SBIR samples will also help guide your submission. Be sure to include the agency name when you search in order to find the most relevant examples.

Register on all the sites

Your first step should be to register on sam.gov. It’s required and it takes time to get approved. From there you’ll need to register on grants.gov, but sam.gov is the very first one you need to get going. Do not wait until right before the deadline or you won’t have time to be approved. We recently went through the SBIR process and registering ahead of time and familiarizing ourselves with the required documents for submission helped us meet the deadline. We also started the application well before we had anything to submit. By doing so, we learned everything needed by way of trial and error. Do not skip this step and make this your very first one.

Other resources

The SBIR.gov site is also a good place to search for previously awarded SBIRs and STTRs. This will give you an idea of awards, topics and types of companies that have received funding in the past. The actual search function on the site isn’t the best and may take some trial and error to get relevant results.

For NC Business, there is a program called One NC Small Business from the NC Department of Congress. It provides a match on SBIR/STTR awards but is currently not funded. Consider contacting your legislature to have this program supported in the future. There are also great stats on the site about awardees and previous funding.

Did I mention the SBDTC? They are very focused on helping NC companies succeed and are particularly good and providing advice on the SBIR/STTR programs. There are also resources within local universities, consider reaching out to them or finding companies that rely on SBIR/STTR programs for continued innovation.

The SBIR/STTR programs can be arduous, however, the process will force you to think through a business plan, commercialization and market research. The worst that can happen is you don’t receive the grant but you can always try again next year!