National Science Foundation (NSF)

National Science Foundation (NSF)


NSF is one of the five federal departments that participates in both the SBIR and STTR programs. 

NSF provides funding for innovative ideas across every aspect of science and technology, apart from drug discovery and clinical trials. Under both the SBIR and STTR programs, NSF focuses on high-risk, high-impact technologies that have 1) intellectual merit, 2) broader impacts, and 3) commercial potential. NSF gives equal weight to all of these criteria, but small businesses must be able to transform their ideas into marketable products and services. That is because, unlike fundamental research, the NSF SBIR program supports startups and small businesses in the creation of innovative, disruptive technologies, getting discoveries out of the lab and into the market.



To submit a proposal package, in addition to the general SBA requirements, a business must have registered through the NSF single-sign on system via Once registered, a business will need to manage and submit their proposal through FastLane, the NSF proposal creation tool. In order to successfully connect to these systems, a business must have fully completed their DUNS and SAM registrations.

Additionally, as of March 2019, NSF is moving towards an “always online” proposal submission system, with two 6-month submission windows. To submit a proposal though, a small business must have submitted a “Project Pitch” through the online portal for Project Pitches, and received positive feedback on that pitch. If the Project Pitch is accepted, the small business will receive an official invitation (via email) from the cognizant NSF SBIR/STTR Program Director. If your Project Pitch is not accepted, the small business will receive feedback on why the proposed innovation is not a good fit for the NSF SBIR/STTR programs as it has been pitched. A Project Pitch requires the business to supply information on the innovation, focusing on why it is novel and unique, the technical objectives and challenges to be completed during the Phase I work, the market opportunity for the intended product, and background on the company and team and why they are the correct mix of people to bring the product to market.

Ensure you have read the solicitation carefully, as these requirements might change between funding years.

Mechanics of the Program

During the Phase I project, NSF awardees are expected to have explored product-market fit, determined their technology’s feasibility, designed and tested prototypes, identified any relevant legal or regulatory issues, and developed a plan to scale and market their technology. Phase I funding is limited to $225,000 for up to 12 months of work, and if the project is successful, you can apply for Phase II funding. Phase II project funding is limited to $750,000 for 24 months of work to further develop the technology.

Additional Funding

NSF also carries a supplemental Phase IIB program to help current Phase II awardees speed the commercialization of their technology. For Phase IIB funding, a small business must secure either third-party funding, or provide their own match. NSF may then match 50 cents on every $1 of qualifying revenues or investment (minimum match $50,000 and maximum $500,000). More information on these requirements can be found on the NSF Phase IIB supplement page.

Additionally awardees are always encouraged to seek other funding mechanisms to transition their work into a Phase III.



For a full listing of agency resources and NM FAST resources, relevant to an SBIR or STTR submission to NSF, please visit this link: