SBIR/STTR Grant Funding 101: How to secure non-dilutive funding for science & tech start-ups

May 8, 2024


In the competitive world of startups, finding money that lets you keep full control of your creative business is like finding a hidden gem. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs represent such a treasure, offering up to $2 million in non-dilutive funding!


Understanding SBIR and STTR: A Lifeline for Startups

At their core, SBIR and STTR are prestigious federal programs aimed at supporting science and technology startups. Administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, these programs are designed to assist entrepreneurs in transforming their innovative ideas into market-ready solutions. What sets SBIR and STTR apart is their focus on non-dilutive funding—granting Founders the financial backing needed without requiring equity in return. This is a game-changer for startups looking to maintain full ownership while pursuing their ambitious projects.


The Golden Opportunity Presents Challenges

With funding ranging from $50,000 to $2 million (or more), the potential to propel startups into their next phase of development is huge. This investment isn’t just about the money; it’s an investment in a vision, allowing Founders to bring tangible, impactful innovations to market. However, the path to securing this funding is not without its challenges.


The SBIR/STTR programs are renowned for their competitiveness. With thousands of applications submitted annually, the process to secure funding is rigorous and demands meticulous preparation. The application process is time-consuming, requiring a detailed strategy, technical expertise, and a considerable amount of paperwork.


Moreover, startups must brace for potentially long timelines—not only in preparing and submitting applications but also during the review process and until the funding is disbursed. It’s not uncommon for startups to wait six months or more to learn the outcome of their SBIR grant applications.


Despite these hurdles, the allure of SBIR and STTR funding remains strong due to their focus on innovation and research-driven projects. For startups working on groundbreaking ideas or technologies, these programs offer not just financial backing but also crucial validation of your work’s significance and potential impact.


Navigating the Journey to SBIR/STTR Funding

The process of applying for SBIR/STTR funding is as rewarding as it is challenging. It prompts Founders to refine their business plan, clarify their R&D objectives, and polish their proposal-writing skills. While the journey may be long, the rewards—both in terms of funding and industry recognition—are substantial. Let’s dive into three essential tips to help Founders navigate this journey successfully.


1. Outline Your Go-To-Market Strategy

Your SBIR/STTR application must go beyond detailing your R&D strategy; it should also articulate how your technical efforts will support your commercialization goals. A well-defined go-to-market strategy is crucial, demonstrating to the review panel the commercial viability of your project. This strategy should show how your product or technology meets market needs and customer demands, thereby enhancing its potential for successful market entry and acceptance.


2. Choose the Right Program

The U.S. government offers several SBIR/STTR programs through agencies like the NIH, NSF, DOD, DOE, and USDA. Each program has its mission and interests, making it vital to select the one that aligns best with your startup’s technology and business goals. Finding the right fit can significantly increase your chances of securing funding, so research each program’s eligibility requirements and focus areas thoroughly.


3. Start Early and Prepare Thoroughly

Given the competitive nature of the SBIR program, dedicating ample time and resources to developing a strong proposal is non-negotiable. The preparation process is detailed and demands a comprehensive understanding of both your R&D and commercialization strategies. Typically, a solid Phase I application requires at least three months of dedicated effort. Rushing through the application can compromise its quality, so start early and allocate sufficient time for preparation.


Final Thoughts

The SBIR and STTR programs continue to offer a vital lifeline for science and technology startups. While the path to securing funding is fraught with challenges, the potential rewards justify the effort. By maintaining ownership of your startup while receiving the financial support needed to bring your innovations to life, SBIR and STTR can indeed be your startup’s golden ticket. In closing, remember that securing SBIR/STTR funding is a testament to your commitment to innovation and the potential impact of your work. As you embark on this journey, leverage every resource at your disposal. Make sure to check out’s YouTube Channel and website to find more resources, advice, and tips on how you can secure your first SBIR/STTR grant!


About KeepYourEquity, co’s mission is to support scientists, engineers, and clinicians in their start-up journeys by helping Founders secure SBIR/STTR grants. Our goal is to educate and support Founders on how to raise non-dilutive federal funding to get the resources they need to commercialize innovative ideas to solve today’s biggest global problems. To date, we’ve helped to raise over $15 M of SBIR/STTR funding across start-ups across medicine, engineering, environment, energy, defense, and much more.’s SBIR/STTR resources and tools on: 




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About Stacy Chin, Ph.D.

Stacy Chin combines her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for research to help start-ups commercialize their innovations. With 10+ years of grant writing experience, she has secured over $15 M in SBIR/STTR grant funding for clients spanning a wide variety of sectors.

She’s consulted start-ups spun out by Founders, professors, medical doctors, start-up executives, and collaborators from MIT, Mass General Hospital, Columbia Univ., Univ. of Co3lorado, UCLA, Brown Univ., Boston Univ., New York Univ., Univ. of Texas, UCSD, and more. Stacy is a TechStars SBIR/STTR mentor and a highly competitive and nationally reputable tech start-up accelerator. She previously served as an NIH and NSF SBIR reviewer and study section co-chair.

Stacy received her PhD in chemistry, holds multiple patents, and authored multiple academic research articles. She also brings 8+ years of experience as a start-up founder and was been recognized for her entrepreneurial achievements through a number of awards.